At a time when Nepal, a tiny Himalayan Republic, is engulfed by political hiccups and economic ruins, Santosh Shah, a 28-year old youth activist and the editor of Today's Youth Asia magazine, is debuting in the Powertalks -- the only English talk show in the country. Shah also works as the South Asian Correspondent of Iowa based SCOLA television.
The primetime talk show on Image Channel, Nepal's first and premiere private TV channel, is already a big hit in the country for its rigorous quizzing of prominent leaders, diplomats, and dignitaries from around the world working in Nepal. Asked about the concept of the program, Shah says, "the show is a powerful tool for the Nepalese people to gain international perspectives and insights on global issues, politics, diplomacy and international affairs unlike its counterparts which are limited mostly to local leaders and issues."
The show portrays hope and optimism for an ailing country which has gone through copious trouble in recent times. Premiered on February 23, 2009 with Robert Piper, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator as the guest, Powertalks has so far beaten the ratings of counterpart programs in Kantipur and Nepal Television. The show also airs on Image 97.9 nationwide radio and Image 103.6FM in Kathmandu. The radio is the major source for majority of listeners in the country. More than a million people listen and watch the program every week.
Nepal, both for good and bad, has continuously attracted global attention for the last decade as the country went through major tectonic shifts in political landscape. The decade-long (1996-2006) Maoist revolution claiming over thirteen thousands lives, the Royal Massacre in 2001, and the military coup by then King Gyanendra in 2002, loss of 1/5 of the population to foreign employment and immigrations, and finally the pro-democratic movement and reinstatement of parliament and democracy in 2006 marked a dramatic shift in Nepal's socio-politics.
The Maoists rebels signed the historic peace accord in November 2006 and won the majority of seats in the constitution assembly elections in April 2008. The first sitting of the Constitution Assembly abolished monarchy and declared Nepal as the federal Republic which gave a way for Nepal's first President and then Maoist top leader Prachanda to be elected as the Prime Minister. During all these trying times, the international community has played a crucial role and Santosh Shah, who started his career in media at the age of 13 in 1994, has lived and worked through it. The concept of the TV show is the result of all Nepal's dynamic political sphere, international community as a major part of this crucial period and Santosh Shah developing as an expert by living through the change.
Nepal's political, social, and economic development is a backward movement. The blame-game against each other amongst more than two dozen active political parties, representing various remote parts of Nepal, often get stuck in Kathmandu and mistake the valley and its activities to be of the entirety of the nation. Tragically, this political blame-game, in recent time, has shifted towards international community -- especially against India and the USA -- the two nations whose friendship and support Nepal has enjoyed over half a century.
Shah told me that the talk show aims at presenting Nepal in an international perspective so that the leaders will gear towards progressive move to integrate with the world community at a faster pace. When diplomats are interviewed, Shah focuses on ways to find creative and tangible approach to further strengthen Nepal's bilateral relations. Powertalks also acknowledges the partnership, aid and support Nepal received from the western nations. At a time of political turmoil, Shah aims at protecting that flickering flame of hope for Nepal.
More amazingly, Powertalks is entirely produced by a young team. The anchor and director is 28, the assistant director and the scriptwriter is 18, the producer is 26, assistant producer is 22, the entire technical crews are in their 20s and early 30s. A nation shaken by illiteracy, unemployment, and myopic leadership, the program presents Nepal's optimistic future.
Nepal's state of economy is in shambles and the political instability has destroyed development for two decades now. Journalists are the most threatened, with several killed every year. Moreover, almost five million youths have fled or left the country, and the remaining pray for an opportunity to leave the nation. To see such a young team come up with an idea to bring international perspectives on national scenario, dominated by political bickering, is indeed impressive and inspiring.