Pri­vate me­dia a bleak future

Bhutan Times - - Home - Sonam Pen­jor

Be­fore 2006, Kuensel Cor­po­ra­tion Ltd. and Bhutan Broad­cast­ing Ser­vice Cor­po­ra­tion (BBSC) were syn­ony­mous with the Bhutanese main­stream news me­dia.

With the en­try of two new pri­vate news­pa­pers in 2006, Bhutan Times Ltd. and Bhutan Ob­server Pri­vate Ltd. marked the be­gin­ning of the in­dus­try’s rad­i­cal growth. But within a short span of five years, the num­ber of news­pa­pers grew to twelve (eight in English and four in Dzongkha). The num­ber of ra­dio sta­tions in­creased to five. A cou­ple of news mag­a­zines were also launched dur­ing the in­ter­ven­ing pe­riod.

The lib­er­al­iza­tion of me­dia mar­ket, ne­cessi- tated by the de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion process, was a ma­jor im­pe­tus that en­cour­aged the pro­lif­er­a­tion of news or­ga­ni­za­tions in Bhutan.

Now the news me­dia in­dus­try in Bhutan es­pe­cially by the pri­vate me­dia house is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing lots of chal­lenges like never ever be­fore. The economic sit­u­a­tion of mar­ket sus­tain­abil­ity has tested al­ready by some of the pri­vate me­dia house.

The re­port in the Sit­u­a­tion As­sess­ment of Jour­nal­ists in Bhutan states that the As­sess­ment done by the Jour­nal­ists As­so­ci­a­tion of Bhutan (JAB) is ex­pected to serve as a ba­sis for pol­icy in­ter­ven­tions and strate­gic di­rec­tion from the agen­cies and au­thor­i­ties con­cerned to en­able the me­dia to play its role and con­trib­ute to the growth of our demo­cratic so­ci­ety. The study is the first of its kind and its find­ings could be used as point of de­par­ture to work to­ward build­ing a strong, healthy, re­spon­si­ble and re­spon­sive press in the coun­try.

Now max­i­mum jour­nal­ist had left the pro­fes­sion and en­ters into the job mar­ket for the bet­ter jobs.

The re­port states that the 71 per­cent of work­ing jour­nal­ists feels that jour­nal­ism has be­come unattrac­tive and lost its at­trac­tions. The low salary pack­ages, pro­fes­sional hazards, and the lack of public recog­ni­tion of the pro­fes­sion are cited as the main rea­sons.

The re­port fur­ther states that most for­mer jour­nal­ists left their pro­fes­sion be­cause they wanted to change their pro­fes­sion. How­ever, a good num­ber of them said low salary and bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties pro­pelled them to leave, while oth­ers men­tioned pro­fes­sional hazards in­clud­ing cen­sor­ship, threats and long work­ing hours as rea­sons for their exit.

The cur­rent me­dia sit­u­a­tion is ex­tremely bad, ac­cord­ing to most jour­nal­ists. They say the lack of gov­ern­ment sup­port (pol­icy in­ter­ven­tions and pro­vi­sion of in­cen­tives for qual­ity jour­nal­ism), un­sus­tain­able eco­nom­ics of the me­dia in­dus­try, ab­sence of qual­ity jour­nal­ism and cen­sor­ship are the main causes. 58 per­cent of work­ing jour­nal­ists men­tioned the ex­ist­ing me­dia leg­is­la­tions and poli­cies failed to en­sure me­dia devel­op­ment in the coun­try.

The re­port states that, pri­vate me­dia houses are fac­ing with the fi­nan­cial short­ages since they de­pend on the gov­ern­ment ad­ver­tise­ment for sus­tain­abil­ity of the me­dia house but due to gov­ern­ment’s bud­getary deficit since 2012, the pri­vate me­dia houses are on the verge of bank­ruptcy and the clo­sure.

The study re­port states that the jour­nal­ists work­ing in pri­vate me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions earn far less than those work­ing in State-owned ones. About 40 per­cent of jour­nal­ists work­ing in pri­vate me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions re­ported of not re­ceiv­ing their salaries on time (at the end of the month). They have not been paid between one to four months in a row. Some of them re­port­edly bor­rowed money from friends and rel­a­tives to sup­port them­selves while oth­ers moved in with their par­ents and friends.

The sur­vey cov­ered 90 jour­nal­ists work­ing in 16 me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions and 29 for­mer jour­nal­ists. The pri­mary ob­jec­tive of the study was to iden­tify con­straints and chal­lenges fac­ing jour­nal­ists in dis­charg­ing their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and as­sess pre­vail­ing me­dia poli­cies and free­dom to prac­tice jour­nal­ism (ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and chal­lenges).

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