Nepal's changing media landscape


Photo: Madhu Acharya

Some 4,145 respondents in 38 sample districts of all seven provinces were surveyed in January and February this year to measure their ownership of communication devices, mass media consumption patterns, and their views on the press itself.

The exercise was undertaken by Sharecast Initiative Nepal, and the 2018 survey was the third in a series supported by multiple Nepali organisations. The study also explores most popular radio and tv programs and stations, and current trends in social media engagement and Internet usage.

Sample distribution by districts

Province 4 led the way with the highest mobile phone ownership (99%) with 64% of them being smartphones. The province, of which Pokhara is the capital, also had 38% of its people using the Internet daily.

Mobile phones are by far the most common communication device in Nepal today with an overwhelming majority of 96% of respondents owning one at the household level, and individually they are owned by 90%. Of these, slightly more than half were smartphones, and only 18% of respondents said they used laptops, desktops or tablets at home.

Among the 35% who have access to regular Internet, 98% respondents said they use mobile phone for Net access. Only 5.2% of respondents said they used laptops/tablets for the Internet whereas only 0.8% respondents used personal computers.

Nearly three-fourths of those polled used mobile data to access Internet while only 19% said they had access to broadband Internet or WiFi at home.

Easy access to mobile data, smart phone penetration along with competitive rate from telecom companies are attracting mobile users to access the Internet on their phones. Broadband Wi-Fi is still limited in urban affluent households.

Among Internet users, Facebook was the highest (81%) with Messenger, IMO, YouTube, Viber and Whatsapp trailing close behind. In the 16-24 age group, Facebook use was 86%. An estimated 8 million Nepalis are said to be on Facebook, and is popular with both literate as well as illiterate people.

IMO is widely used to connect with relatives in Middle East where migrants are working in the highest numbers. Even though it has risky privacy issues, IMO works well even with low bandwidth. Media digital aggregator HamroPatro was the only Nepali application mentioned as a favourite by 1.3% Internet users.

In the electronic media, tv has overtaken radio with 56% of households now owning tv sets with only 29% having traditional radio receivers at home.

Access to electricity, DTH and cable coupled with remittance savings, (one in three respondents had someone from the household working abroad) being used to buy tv monitors. Interestingly, 56% of respondents said they tuned in to FM radio on their phones.

Press readership trails behind radio with only 21% of respondents saying they had been able to get hold of a hardcopy in the last six months. Among those readers, only 6% said they read a paper daily, relying on radio and tv for local, national and international news.

Among the respondents, 35% said they had regular access to the Internet, with 24% of them using it daily. This finding contradicts the recent Nepal Telecom Authority data which is primarily based on the mobile simcard distribution and stated that 63% of Nepal’s population had Internet access.

One of the most interesting findings of this survey was in answers to the question about which source of news were most reliable. About a third said they trusted tv and radio, however only 3% trusted newspapers and less than 2% found information on the Internet to be reliable. Many found neighbours to be much more trustworthy than the information available online.

Unlike India and other countries in the region, the big chunk of people watching Nepali tv channels do so for news (85%) followed by entertainment (43%). When asked why, a majority said they did not find Nepali entertainment programs particularly appropriate.

An overwhelming 86% of tv viewers watch programs in the evenings, and more women watch television than men in the evenings. The men watch more tv in the mornings. This is true across variables such as age, province, ecological regions, caste, education and occupation.

Of tv users 35% of households have local cable without setup box, and 33% are hooked up to Nepal’s only direct to home (DTH) company. The remaining 32% use local setup boxes, illegal Indian DTH as well as digital tv providers. This scenario is expected to change with the government’s new policy for cable companies to digitise tv sources.

Survey lead and analysis:

Madhu Acharya,

Bhumiraj Chapagain

Statistics and methodology:

Balkrishna Khadka

How the survey was done

Interviews were conducted with 4,145 respondents in 38 sample districts over seven provinces in January-February 2018.

There is an error margin of 1.52% at 95%. The 77 districts were sample frame stratified by Provinces. The primary sampling unit was the district, with 198 sample wards selected from the 38 districts. Sample households (21) were selected using random walk methods.