|October, 30, 2011 (Thimphu) - When DPT formed the government in 2008 by almost uprooting its rival, PDP, it pledged to facilitate the growth of a vibrant media. Then the government justified that for democracy to succeed, a strong media is imperative. |
In addition, the two-member-opposition, whose voices often got brutally eclipsed in the parliament (dominated by DPT players); it propelled media to play more complex roles.
Four years have rolled by ever since and it is now an opportune time to ask whether the media and the government have delivered as committed?
With over a dozen new additions to the media business, competition has become very stiff, which has economically brought some media agencies to its knees. The latest instances would be Bhutan Times Limited, the first private news paper, retrenching seven of its employees and Bhutan Today going by-weekly from daily.
Is it simply the market forces pushing them (media houses) to seek extraordinary survival measures or is it because the government is not doing enough?
Pointing at the nine newspapers, couple of magazines, six radio stations and upcoming private TV stations in the country, the Prime Minister said Bhutanese media would not have thrived without the government’s support, which he said came in a discreet manner (government advertisement and tax incentives).
But what Lyonchhen failed to highlight is how these media houses are managing to survive the financial crisis, which could ultimately lead to ethical compromise. Moreover, does quantity really indicate progress ?
“Because of its shaky financial state Bhutanese media will fall prey to rich and powerful people, who will use media as per their wimps,” a foreign journalist said.
Despite the fact that 80% of the total income for the private media houses comes from government advertisements, it does not necessarily indicate that private media gets their fair share from the Nu 300 million earmarked by the government.
Expansion for most private media has become a distant dream with survival taking the central stage. Likewise, editorial decisions are usually taken considering market implication, which brings down the credibility of media as a whole.
The time also demands deliberation over questions like what could have gone wrong. Why media houses are not expanding the way it should, if we go by the government’s claim? How can government further fine tune policies to make it favorable for the over all augmentation of media?
Most feel the government is overwhelmed by the huge addition of new players in the media business, for which it was not prepared. Instead of looking at the numbers alone, government should think about nurturing the key aspects like work quality, professionalism and independence, otherwise Bhutanese media will remain a watch dog but with a clipped vocal chord.