Monday, July 11, 2011

The rise and fall of the Tibetan Carpet Industry


Once the pioneer of Nepal's Tibetan carpet industry, the Jawalakhel Handicraft Centre (JHC) is today eerily quiet. There are few customers and the workers, some of whom have been with the company for decades, fear for their jobs.

It is the same story at carpet centres across the Valley. An industry that during the 1980s brought in one-third of Nepal's foreign currency earnings is nearly finished. At its peak, there were 3,000 carpet weaving centres employing 1.2 million people. Only 600 firms remain, providing jobs to less than 100,000 people.

"It has been a story of decline and decay," says despondent general manager of the JHC, Chime Dorjee, "export orders have dropped and we depend only on meagre retail sales."

The rise and fall of Nepal's carpet industry is the same old story of everyone getting into the act, the production glut leading to lowered prices just as Chinese carpets became cheaper. There were other problems: the child labour and environmental controversies, government indifference and interference, inflation and labour issues.

"It has got so bad that unless the government acts in regulating the industry, we soon won't have any carpets to export," laments Tenzin Choegyal, chairman of Nepal Carpet Enterprise.

The industry is exactly 50 years old, and has its roots in the weaving skills brought to Nepal by Tibetan refugees fleeing the Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1959. The Swiss Red Cross along with Swiss Agency for Technical Assistance set up the Jawalakhel Handicraft Centre in 1960 so the refugees would have jobs. Carpet centres were also set up in Pokhara, Dhorpatan and Solu Khumbu.

Encouraged by sales, the Swiss helped in marketing carpets in Switzerland and Tibetan carpets from Nepal became the rage in the rest of Europe and America. With the upheavals in Iran and Afghanistan, European importers turned in the late 1970s to carpets from Nepal.

Tibetans working for the JHC weaved at home during their free hours, and they slowly started training local Nepali helpers spreading the technique to Nepalis. At its peak in 1993 the carpet industry brought in more than Rs 10.4 billion, but by 2009 it had shrunk by half.

Choegyal, who has been in the business for 30 years, says the biggest problem now are politicised unions. "Labour is our major concern now," he says, "every now and then labour unions backed by political parties come up with unreasonable demands that we cannot fulfil and this hinders production." The best weavers have moved to the Gulf and there is a shortage of skilled workers.

The fierce competition from Indian and Chinese rugs isn't making it easier. "Although, we cannot compete with India and China in terms of price, we are unbeatable in terms of quality especially in America," explains Cheogyal.

If the government stepped in to save the carpet industry, it still has a great potential for growth. The Made in Nepal brand is strong and the added "Tibetan" label gives Nepali rugs an edge that could translate into premium prices.

But carpet traders say the lack of incentives for an industry that has the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs is keeping it hamstrung. Successive governments since the mid-1990s have been interested only in extracting either taxes or bribes from the industry. The government also has an important role in depoliticising union activity, and the competition between politically-affiliated unions that have wrecked the industry, they add.

Left alone

Karma Choenzom, 64 lives in the Tibetan refugee centre at Ekantakuna and fondly remembers the times when things were a lot better. "We used to get lots of export orders and worked overtime, but that is all gone, and the tourists don't come anymore," she says. Born in the Kyirong region of Tibet, Choenzom came to Nepal 25 years ago. Since then she has been working for the centre, first as a carpet weaver and now a wool spinner. The stagnation in the carpet industry worries her. "My future is uncertain," she says with a distant look. Her three daughters have all moved out, and she lives alone in her one room quarter provided by the centre. During the heydays of the carpet industry in the 1990s she earned Rs 4,000 a month, today she barely makes half that.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Significance of Mass Media Research

Before we talk about the significance of Mass Media Research, it is important to discuss the meaning of Mass Media and Research. Mass Media are defined as media which have their proper program and constitute their own audience. (Heiner Meulemann and Jörg Hagenah). Media can be defined as technologies designed to store and disseminate information. Among media in general, mass media can be singled out regarding the information disseminated and the audience receiving them. Mass Media Research, accordingly, deals with the production of programs and the consumption of the audience. In the 7th edition of the book, Mass Media Research: An Introduction, Joe Dominick and Roger Wimmer define research as: an attempt to discover something (Wimmer & Dominick, 2003). That’s all there is to Research—an attempt to discover something. Research is different from other investigation in the sense it is a scientific investigation. When we look at the definition, we will see why research is so important in Mass Media.

There isn’t any area in Mass media that doesn’t conduct or use research. Research is the only area in mass media that relates it to everything. Every time we raise a “who, what, when, where, why, how questions we have developed an investigative question. For example why do people choose to watch one television program over another, how internet affected readership of newspapers, what type of articles are most popular in magazines, when is the best time to broadcast a youth related programme. Research helps provide answer to these questions. Most importantly, it is a valid way of attaining accurate information. Research is scientific therefore it is verifiable, objective, empirical, systematic, cumulative and logical.

As mentioned earlier there isn’t any area in Mass Media which doesn’t use research, we shall further discuss about the use of research in different media forms:

Electronic Media: Electronic media research studies today fall into two main categories: ratings and non ratings research. The data for ratings surveys are currently gathered by two methods: diaries and electronic meters (commonly called people meters). There are many types of no ratings research used by the electronic media. This type of research provides information about what the audience likes and dislikes analyses of different types of programming, demographic and lifestyle information about the audience.

Print Media: While there are many types of research conducted by the print media, these are the types of research that have gained most attention in the past several years:

  • Readership: the most widely used of all print research procedures including research in areas such as reader profiles, item-selection studies, reader-nonreader studies, editor-reader comparisons, and psychographic and lifestyle segmentation studies.
  • Circulation: research about who reads the newspaper or magazine, how can circulation be increased, and what the readers want to have included in their newspaper or magazine.
  • Management: research concerning goal setting by management, employee job satisfaction, and effects of competition and ownership on newspaper content and quality.
  • Readability: research on all the elements and their interactions that affect the success of a piece of printed material.
  • On-line media usage: research concerning the Internet and how it affects newspaper and magazine reading.

Advertising and Public Relations: Just as with the other media, research in advertising and public relations includes a variety of topic, some of which include:

  • Copy Testing: research on the effectiveness of advertising.
  • Reach and frequency: how many people are exposed to advertising?
  • Internet-related: research on how the Internet affects advertising and public relations.
  • Campaign assessment: research on the success of an advertising campaign.
  • Public relations: applied, basic, and introspective research to examine specific practical issues.
  • Public relations audit: a comprehensive study of the public relations position of an organization.
  • Social audit: a small-scale monitoring program to measure how well a company is living up to its public responsibilities.

Internet: The Internet has quickly become a mass medium, and it is changing every day. However, one thing is certain about the Internet, and that is it will provide a countless number of research possibilities for mass media researchers. Consider some of the possibilities:

  • On-line research: respondents answer questions using Internet-based questionnaires.
  • Web site research: what makes a good web site? How can more people be attracted to a web site?
  • Music testing: radio stations and music companies test short segments (hooks) of songs.
  • Advertising testing: respondents provide reactions to audio, video, and print advertising.

Mass Media is a commercial industry. Like any other business, its primary motive is to get the highest numbers. The numbers may refer to sales, profit or audience. Therefore, one important factor of media research is it helps them attain the goal. It involves a 3 step process. Firstly, find what the people want and then give it to them. Lastly, let them know that you gave it to them. Researches help find what people want, also they find out what is the best way to give it to them and also they find the best means for advertising the program. Thus, research is included in every step of the process.

Research thus aids decision making. Regardless of the area that we are involved in mass media, we will be involved in mass media research. There is no area of mass media that hasn’t been affected by research. Research is an integral part of mass media because it results in better and accurate reporting which ultimately results in better decisions.


Wimmer, R. D., & Dominick, J. R. (2003). Mass media research: An introduction (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Adhikary Nirmala Mani (2006) Understanding Mass Media Research (1st ed.) Prashanti Pustak Bhandar

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Visit to Radio Nepal

As a part of our field study, our class was taken on a tour to Radio Nepal which is located inside the Singha Durbar. Since it was my first visit to a radio station, I was excited beyond words and filled with new found energy. But the long wait outside the premises drained all my energy. Finally, after about an hour we were granted the permission to enter. It was not an easy task to locate Radio Nepal inside the spacious Singha Durbar. After wandering here and there for quite some time, at last we somehow reached our destination.

Radio Nepal was established on 1st April 1951. Initially, the transmission covered duration of 4 hours and 30 minutes through a 250 Watt SW transmitter. Over the years, Radio Nepal has strengthened its institutional capacity considerably and diversified itself in terms of programme format, technical efficiency and coverage. Radio Nepal airs programmes on Short Wave, Medium Wave and FM frequencies. FM Kathmandu, the first FM-Channel covering Kathmandu valley and adjoining areas was started in 1995 from its premises at Singh Durbar, Kathmandu. The short Wave transmission of Radio Nepal is estimated to reach listeners throughout the kingdom. Medium Wave transmission covers 70% to 80% of the population.
The Broadcasting Headquarters at Singha Durbar in Kathmandu has two broadcasting houses consisting of one drama studio, two music studios, one reporting studio, three continuity studios, one news studio and seven programme production studios. We visited the music studio first which was equipped with a 24 track recording facility. The most interesting feature of this studio was a Vibrophone, a unique musical instrument found only in Radio Nepal. This studio as told to us is open for hiring purposes for anyone desirous of recording music digitally. The attractive part: Studio charges here are relatively reasonable compared to other private studios. Foreign broadcasting Stations also make use of Radio Nepal’s Studio facilities and transmitters for live and other broadcasts on a rental basis which clears any doubt about inefficiency of its facilities.
Our next stop was one of the programme production studios. It felt great to see the working mechanism of a radio station in practical. After the production studio, we were taken to the recording studio. All of us were so enthralled by the fancy gadgets and couldn’t help but give it a shot. Putting on the head sets and recording our voice we did feel like a pros. But, while some failed miserably others proved that their knack for the work. We also got to see a Radio Jockey busy at work interacting with his callers. Meera Rana, the veteran Nepali singer added some glamour to our trip. Currently, she looks after the tape department of the station. The music library at Radio Nepal can boast of a collection of about 40,000 songs.
In the age where everything is headed towards technology, Radio Nepal is also making some modest effort to cope with the technological advancement. It uses the latest development in computer and digital radio. Also, it has initiated the task of digitizing old songs and mastering on digital format due to its large storage capacity, high fidelity and low cost. The old songs of yester years are getting a new life in the form of CDs.
The complex also has one open air live theatre facility for functions and musical performances. Like other transmitting stations, the Head quarters also has a 100 KVA stand by diesel generator to cope with occasional power failure.
All in all , the visit to Radio Nepal was informative, enthralling and fun at the same time.

Situation of Development Journalism in Nepal

The term “development journalism” is used to refer to two different types of journalism. The first is a new school of journalism which began to appear in the 1960s. The idea behind this type of development journalism is similar to investigative reporting, but it focuses on conditions in developing nations and ways to improve them. It attempts to document the conditions within a country so that the larger world can understand them. Journalists are encouraged to travel to remote areas, interact with the citizens of the country, and report back. This type of development journalism also looks at proposed government projects to improve conditions in the country, and analyzes whether or not they will be effective.

The second type of development journalism involves heavy influence from the government of the nation involved. While this type of development journalism can be a powerful tool for local education and empowerment, it can also be a means of suppressing information and restricting journalists. This type of journalism can walk a thin line. On the one hand, government participation in mass media can help get important information spread throughout the nation. Governments can help to educate their citizens and enlist cooperation on major development projects. However, a government can also use the idea of “development” to restrict freedom of speech, for journalists. Journalists are told not to report on certain issues because it will impact the “development” of the nation in question, and therefore citizens are not actually being given access to the whole picture.

Development these days is understood only in the terms of construction and infrastructure. There are 2 perspectives through which we can understand development. One is through Infrastructure Agenda which means economic development. It refers to advancement in physical structures such as roads, schools, health, and education sector. The second perspective is Individual Independence which means human development. It is related to human rights.

As a tool for social development, development journalism can be very valuable especially for a developing country like Nepal. It is important to communicate in development in order to understand the problem and also to draw the solution. However, the case of Nepal is far from perfect. The state of communication sector is still humble which prevents social advancement. Media plays an important role in accelerating the pace of development process.But, mainstream media do not give coverage to developmental issue. Media is dominated by politics and hence, developmental news fails to stand out. Glamour factor is still absent in the reporting of developmental issues. Although such issues are covered by few newspapers and magazines, the quality of reporting is weak which fails to attract readers' interest.

Media in Nepal are killing the essence of development journalism. Rather than critically analyzing the issues, they merely report on what is happening. Instead of studying the issue, they just present it as it is. For e.g. Most of the newspapers will write about what the Prime Minister said in a speech rather than why did he/she say it or whether the things said is accurate or not. Merely, reporting issues related to poverty, corruption, hunger and illiteracy is not only depressing but a repetition. Journalists committed to development should look at the situation beyond just reporting it. Lack of professionalism can be the cause for ineffective reporting. People still view journalism as a hobby rather than profession. In Nepal, there are no standard requirements to become a journalist and neither there is availability of specialization courses in the discipline of journalism. Among the universities in Nepal, only Purbanchal University offers a Master’s Degree in Journalism. Global issues are present in abundance but what is lacking is the critical analysis of such issues.

Moreover, developmental issues are not of concern to the investors because they do not care about the service motive of journalism. To earn money is what matters to them and therefore, they cover only those issues which sell. This is the reason why we never see a news story based on developmental issue on the first page of a newspaper. Media in Nepal is not yet developed as an industry. Legally and technically it is an industry but the distribution system is still weak. Pre-planning is not done resulting in unmanaged media. Also, most of the investors do not have much idea about media management and therefore they focus only on the commercial aspect of it. Furthermore, there are no restrictions in investment proportion. However, it is seen that the journalistic and editorial approach towards development journalism is improving. In Nepal's context the performance of state owned media is comparatively better than other media in coverage of developmental issues.

Development reporting in Nepal has become more of donor based. The reporters are willing to go anywhere to cover any issue when the donor wants. For e.g. If UNICEF is organizing a programme in Dang and they want media coverage, they will take with them few media personnel and pay for their trip. Reporters will cover the event but there will be no follow up because the donor’s interest doesn’t lie in the follow up story. Donors have limited interest. They use the media till the interest is served.

At present, there has been a meager improvement in the field of development journalism. Developmental issues are reported but their presentation style needs to be changed. Neutral advocacy is still absent in reporting issues due to lack of study. Many of the journalists are not professionally committed due to the lack of professional security. Hence, it becomes the role of government to create an environment in which the people from the media and citizen sector can do their work freely without the fear of repercussion. Lastly, development journalism needs to adopt an action-oriented approach which will help bring about a change in the society.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

13th Nepal Educational and Book Fair: A Letdown

The 13th Education and Book Fair held at Bhrikuti Mandap Exhibition Hall in Kathmandu didn’t see as much glamour, visitors and media coverage compared to its previous year. Last year, the event had kicked off with a bang, with Dev Anand, the evergreen Indian actor inaugurating the event and later signing his autobiography “Romancing with Life”. The presence of this Bollywood sensation had drawn both media and public in bulk. But this year nothing of the sort happened. Although the event was inaugurated by poet Durga Lal Shrestha and noted Nepali writers Karna Shakya and Jagdish Ghimire spoke at the ceremony, it was not enough to create the buzz which last year’s fair had created. The opening ceremony itself was a fiasco; generating little media coverage.

To add further to its disappointment, the event collided with the examinations of students who are one of the prospective visitors of the fair. Also, with politics taking the centre stage at the moment, the fair couldn’t generate as much interest and attention from people. Worse, the global economy meltdown and inflation didn’t help either. Last year, the fair saw a mammoth of people visiting the event. The number had been confirmed to be over 300,000 but this year it downed by half.

Anjan Shrestha, Educational Book House says that “the business has gone down to 1/4th.” He believes it is the lack of promotion that resulted in the event receiving a lukewarm response. “The fair as a whole hasn’t been able to cater to the ever growing needs of the readers. All the book stalls are offering the same thing and there is no diversity of content.” he adds further. Shrestha’s views are also supported by Kavita of Penguin Books. She says this year’s fair didn’t get much media coverage and also blames the political situation of the country for putting prospective buyers at bay.

Last year, attractive discount offers had pulled the buyers. Palpasa Café was placed at Rs.100 ; naturally people thronged to the stall to buy it making it the bestseller. But this year such offers also failed to gather sizeable audience. Also, most publishers and sellers didn’t have a wide range of books. Penguin books’ stall wore a deserted look and had put up only those books which were already bestsellers. Some complained of their grievances because their order had not reached in time owing to the Terai strike.

The exhibitors wore a disappointed look and held the organizers responsible for not putting much effort into the fair. All in all this year’s book fair was a disappointment for many including me.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Life as it is now

Life, people say is a mysterious journey filled with happiness and sorrow. I guess everyone will agree with me on this one.After all, all of us have been through our share of joy and misery.Earlier, I had lots of complaints about my life. My body, my grades, my relationships all distressed me easily. But now I have learned to accept life as it comes. I have learnt not to be bothered by small, tiny things which are main cause for one's sorrow. I have learnt to work on my weaknesses and flaunt my strength. We see many people give up on life so easily with occurrence of certain mishaps. I don't want to be one of those person neither I want to be someone who just complains and doesn't work on it. we have one life after all and it depends on one's self to shape it.People envy others who have good life thinking I wish I had that person's fortune . But rather than wishing what we should be doing is creating such life for our self. Good life doesn't come easily neither does happiness. One should always work for it. I am applying this theory to my day-day life and believe me, the result is great. I am more satisfied with myself then ever before and above all I am happy. I guess that's what counts at the end of the day....

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Be skeptical

It is not uncommon for us to hear that we are living in a world of competition. Survival of the fittest, first cum first serve are phrases explaining this very theory. As kids parents often tell us to be careful and not to interact with strangers outside because they believe it’s a jungle out there. It sure is according to my experience of the world. As we grow up we gradually figure out the workings of the world and I tell you it’s all a bitter sweet experience. Bitter if you fail to work accordingly and sweet when you get your steps right.

A philosopher- Rene Descartes had once said “one should always be skeptical about everything in the world except for one’s own existence”. If I had read his philosophy few years back I would be thinking Descartes was a screw up but today I totally agree with him. People may say being doubtful makes you negative but isn’t it better to be a little negative rather than to be fooled by others at the expense of your own success.

A friend of mine was recently duped by his friends to not give exams while they themselves went forward and gave the examination. Call my friend stupid or his friends evil; that doesn’t matter. This is just an example of many such instances happening in the world especially in workplace and educational institutions. The contemporary-industrialized world of today has created such a high level of competition among people (especially youth) that they inevitably feel insecure unless they pull someone four steps behind.

It has also made people selfish, ruthless and narcissist. People of today live in constant fear of being over taken. I have seen people go from being best friends to giving each other ‘I can’t stand you’ looks, from sharing their feelings to sharing forced smiles. Someone once told me you cannot make friends in college and to some extent I now find truth in the statement. When in college we are constantly competing for higher grades and good remarks from teachers. In the process we fail to maintain our friendship. Sometimes the trust is broken and at times the friendship in an un-mend able way.

Living in a capitalist age people tend to become materialistic and hence due to that part of us become shallow. We are always on the get go ready to bring people down in order to take their position. Competition is good and is required in every walk of life. It is due to competition that the human civilization has been able to come this far. But, what is needed is a healthy competition and not an immoral one.

So, be careful the next time you decide to entrust someone. Don’t forget that the Gandhian philosophy of offering your left cheek to someone who just slapped your right one doesn’t work anymore in this world of ever growing competition. Be skeptical and be realistic.