Nepal’s media landscape is characterised by two important factors. First, the high number of radio stations that are spread across the country at a local level and have a greater reach to the overall population. As media researcher Badri Paudyal noted in the 2013 article Radio Broadcasting: Access and Functioning, the overall radio service in Nepal is established as a strong, popular and credible medium of information with a large following of listeners. In 2008, in an article titled Radio and the Recent Political Changes in Nepal, media commentator Pratyoush Onta cites radio’s large coverage, citizens’ access to radio, and the plurality in terms of language of broadcast as the main reasons for the popularity of radio as a mass media. 

Second, the mainstream newspapers that are mostly centered in the Kathmandu Valley, a combination of three administrative districts with the capital, Kathmandu, and have greater impact at the political level. The mainstream print newspapers are the agenda setters in Nepal. The overall print circulation is low because of the difficult geographical terrain, the high recurring costs for both publishers and readers, and the adult literacy rate at only around 60 percent of the population. Newspapers are mainly sold in the Kathmandu Valley and cities, thus having a greater impact on political and policy issues. The overall readership and the number of print newspapers  are rising, however these are competing for advertisements in a small, fragile economy for their revenues; many of them are also not profitable. The annual advertising market is estimated to be approximately 40m euro. There are muted accusations that media owners continue to lose money on newspapers to gain political or economic benefits in their other interests.

However, the growing number of television stations and the digital news outlets are all set to change the dynamics of the media landscape in Nepal. More than a hundred televisions channels have received licenses for operation in a country of 29 million people. Although Nepal lacks reliable data on television viewership, many believe that televisions, especially the primetime news bulletins, have a large audience, yet they only receive around 20 percent of total advertising expenditures. Most of the television stations focus on news-based programming as they are relatively cheaper and easier to produce in the studio.

Digital news outlets have received a lot of attention lately. The Internet penetration has increased dramatically in recent years, and the online news consumption has seen a similar rise because of the popularity of social media and the availability of cheaper Chinese or Indian smartphones. In recent years, some senior and well known editors have invested in digital media outlets which has increased the impact of those media among political and social elites. 

Nepal’s media history is largely built upon partisan newspapers. Until 1990, Nepal was ruled by a monarch and the press was divided into two lines: those supportive of the monarchy and those supporting banned political parties in their struggle for democracy. After the establishment of democracy, the constitutional right of press freedom set the foundation for the emergence of professional media. As of today, while all of the daily newspapers , except state-owned ones, function as professional media after the advent of democracy, the majority of weekly newspapers remain fiercely partisan, supporting one or other political party, or even groups within a political party. Most of the weekly newspapers, which receive very little advertising and are very low in circulation, are either directly funded by the political leaders, or are operated by owners having political ambitions, or supported by rich allies of a political party or group. 

The daily newspapers and televisions are not party press, however the political parallelism is clearly visible. They reflect competing political ideologies and opinions despite most of them not having direct structural or ownership connection with political entities. In an ideal situation, this could mean diversity in contents, however, in Nepal’s case, such political reflection doesn’t necessarily mean diversity in contents, but rather lack in professionalism in the contents of media. Political interest groups own the majority of local radio stations and digital news outlets. 

Journalism was considered a volunteer profession until the emergence of big media houses after 1990, which led to the development of media commercialisation. Many young people with a journalism degree entered media looking at it as a career rather than just a writing hobby. This created an heterogeneous mixture in the journalistic community, with senior journalists carrying political ideologies, and younger generations largely following journalistic principles. However the political transition and turmoil in Nepal for the last two and a half decades have forced everyone to become political, and journalists are not exceptions. The majority of journalists are members of journalist unions which are formed as wings of political parties and their affiliation is often reflected in the contents they produce. 

The state is a prime player in Nepal’s media landscape. It owns a major publication house – the Gorkhapatra Corporation that publishes two dailies and magazines; the national television network with three channels – Nepal Television, NTV Plus and NTV News; the national shortwave radio with regional broadcasts and an FM radio; as well as a news-only agency, the National News Agency (RSS). There is a long-going effort to incorporate radio and television into the Public Service Broadcasting (PSB), but it remains only in the policy documents. 

The state is also the regulator requiring all print newspapers to register before publication, all radios and televisions to acquire a license to broadcast, and of late, all digital news outlets to enlist. An example of the intervention by the government is the issuance of the Online Media Operation Directives by the Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC) that requires digital news outlets to enlist and empowers a state agency with arbitrary powers to supervise those outlets. The PCN, although an autonomous body on paper, is funded by the government which also appoints its members, thus making it more of a state agency. The PCN has issued the Code of Ethics for Journalists jointly with the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), which is an umbrella union of all journalists in the country, and solely enforces it. During the time of elections, the Election Commission and the PCN monitor media to ensure equal airtime to all political parties, limit political advertisements on media, and prohibit dissemination of pre-election survey results. 

The government is also a major funder of the media. It’s Public Welfare Advertising (PWA) scheme, managed by the Department of Information (DoI), is a major advertising revenue for small media outlets. The €2m scheme benefits qualifying print media and radio stations. The amount of PWA for any media depends upon the rating of the media done by the PCN. The PCN also manages the government-funded Media Development Fund to support development of small media outlets outside the Kathmandu Valley and Journalists Welfare Fund.