Radio as a Propaganda Tool: The History of Radio Broadcasting in Nepal
Radio Nepal, reportedly the first radio station in Nepal, is said to have been established on April 2, 1951. However, some push the date of radio broadcasting further by a few months. The rudimentary broadcasting station established by the Nepali Congress activists during the armed uprising against the Rana regime is considered by some as the first radio station of Nepal (see Thulung 2045 v.s.; Koirala 2061 v.s.[2016 v.s.]; Renu 2061 v.s.).
Those who have done some research into the history of radio in Nepal shift the date by four years (Bhattarai 2057 v.s.; Onta 2061 v.s.). Following these researchers, this paper sheds further light on the history of radio/broadcasting in Nepal. Moreover, this paper explores the reason why Padma Shamsher, the penultimate Rana ruler, attempted to open a radio station, why that effort could not last long, and why it had to wait till 1951 for that to officially happen.
The global history of radio shows that it was the radio manufacturers who first ran the broadcasting business, chiefly to sell their hardware. Over the years, the number of radios and listeners increased, and so did the languages of radio broadcasting. Radio gradually became not only the tool of information and entertainment; it also became the most potent propaganda instrument. In addition to influencing one’s own subjects, rulers utilized radio to spread propaganda among foreign subjects by airing programs in their (i.e., enemies’) languages.
In Nepal, the earlier Rana rulers had tried to stop the influence of radio by restricting their subjects’ access to the radio/waves themselves. That is why only a limited number of elites were permitted to own radio sets in the country. However, by the time Padma Shamsher ascended the throne, radio had become sort of omnipresent all over the world—radio sets were becoming smaller, and less expensive. Moreover, foreigners (Indian government) had already begun airing programs also in Nepali language from across the border. Padma, this paper argues, had to decide whether to let the foreigner(s) spread their propaganda on his subjects or to use the airwaves to his own benefit. He chose the latter, and concomitantly a temporary radio/broadcasting station was opened in Nepal. Subsequently the rebels too established (temporary) radio stations of their own.
Relying mostly on hitherto unused printed archives, this research paper focuses on the early history of Nepali (Gorkhali) language radio broadcasting and various social-political-global factors associated with it. Divided into five main sections, this paper not only charts the history of radio broadcasting in Nepal, it also elucidates the propaganda war that the Nepali state and the rebels fought through radio during the 1950-51 political movement.
Koirala, Tarini Prasad. 2061 v.s.[2016 v.s.]. Radio Nepalko Janma. In Radio Nepalko Samajik Itihas. Pratyoush Onta et al. eds., pp. 55-68. Kathmandu: Martin Chautari.
Onta, Pratyoush. 2061 v.s. Radio Nepal Bhanda Pahileko Yugma Nepaliko Radio Anubhav. In Radio Nepalko Samajik Itihas. Pratyoush Onta et al. eds., pp. 35-54. Kathmandu: Martin Chautari.
Renu, Phanishwarnath. 2061 v.s. Nepali Kranti Katha. Tulasi Bhattarai, trans. Kathmandu: Sarbada Bangmaya Pratisthan.
Thulung, Naradmuni. 2045 v.s. Birseka Anuharharu: Birsana Naskeka Ghatanahru. Kathmandu: Pratinidhi Prakashan.