Ad firm takes media to court

Published on Apr 13 2010 // Media Monitor

Proprietor accuses BICMA and newspaper companies of collusion

12 April, 2010 – An advertising firm, Druk Advertisement, has sued the six newspaper companies and Bhutan info comm and media authority (BICMA) for allegedly colluding against the firm to suspend its activities.

Druk Advertisement, which started a free circulation of an advertisement magazine in February, suspended circulation after the trade department, on the recommendation of BICMA, asked the firm to “immediately suspend its circulation”.

Thimphu district court sent its summon orders this week.

The issue sparked off in March, after the newspapers wrote to BICMA expressing their shock over the ad magazine’s license and seeking intervention.

They informed BICMA that the advertising firm was allegedly telling their clients that they were an ad agent for the newspapers. The letter to BICMA also stated that the “proprietor had come to the media houses saying he ran a publicity firm and would be collecting advertisements from his clients. He even signed legal contracts to book space for 52 inserts a year. However, after a month, his own advertisement magazine came on the market”.

BICMA then issued a notification in all media, stating that they had not licensed Druk Advertisement and that its services should be suspended, as the firm failed to follow rules and regulations.

The proprietor of Druk Advertisement, Tashi Wangyel, said that he filed the case because he did not violate any rules. “I’ve appealed for an explanation from BICMA on why my firm should suspend its activities, which aren’t illegal,” he said, adding that the trade department, after consulting with BICMA and establishing that the firm’s activities were purely commercial, gave him the license.

He said that the BICMA Act, in no way, covers advertising, but only monitoring of news and media content. “Neither BICMA nor the print media has contacted me over the issue,” said the proprietor. He accused BICMA of not being objective to solve the issue professionally.

“I suspect collusion between the newspapers and BICMA to stop my firm from functioning. I deserve to know why and, therefore, I appealed to the court,” he said.

Media officials from the newspapers said that the basis for their letter to BICMA, asking the authority to intervene, was that any publication company has to acquire both licenses from the trade department and BICMA.

“Our letter to BICMA said that the magazine doesn’t carry a single news article, nor does it provide any social value to the readers,” said one of the editors. “When the market is already tiny and the existing media houses are struggling to make ends meet, such a magazine is the beginning of the end of journalism in Bhutan.”

Meanwhile, the proprietor said that his firm had done a baseline study on the advertisement market and purview research on how effective the current advertising market was before it hit the market.

BICMA officials did not comment on the issue, saying that it was inappropriate since the case was already in court.

By Phuntsho Choden in Kuensel