The dying industry
The Journalist Association of Bhutan (JAB) released the situation assessment of journalist in Bhutan few days back to understand the state of journalists in Bhutan and the environment they work in. 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.
The proliferation of the private media occurred with the liberalization of media industry on the onset of the democratization process in 2006. More than 12 newspaper and 6 radio stations came into existence during a short period of time. The media industry was considered a lucrative business then. The media sector employed fairly good nos of people and did quite well financially and professionally.
The main problems during this time were too much dependence on government for sustainability and lack of alternative source of revenue. Further there were always stiff competition among the media houses and lack of cooperation.
However in 2010 things began to get bad due to the austerity measures taken by the government in advertising. The revenue of these companies began to plunge and the management was forced to implement the cost cutting measures. Due to this the quality of journalism was compromised and there was a slow decline in the quality of news. The senior journalist had been laid off as the companies do not have funds to pay for their salaries and allowances.
Due to the global recess and lack of loans by the financial institutions the private sector was also at its worst. Due to the weak private sector and lack of market almost all the private media agencies are struggling for its survival. Today, most media houses are at the brink of bankruptcy and closure.
The sustainability crisis faced by media houses has had a direct effect on the quality of journalism. Many senior reporters and editors have left the media industry for greener pastures.
With this the newsroom are filled with reporters who are not experience and lack journalistic skills. The exodus of experienced journalists and impending closure of media houses will negatively impact on the quality and pluralism of media. However for those who are staying back in the industry are going through a difficult phase of their life. Most of the times especially for the journalists working for the private media are working without salaries and benefits for months. Having a family to support and with the increase in the salary of the civil servants, the situation has gone from bad to worst.
With its fourth estate in its death bed and waiting for the turn to die and any intervention is now little too late as stated in the report. The failure of media falls on each one of us as we have failed ourselves somewhere as a responsible citizen.