BBS TV II on the way, six more may come

Published on Nov 19 2011 // Media Monitor

While interested private individuals and companies vying to launch the country’s first private television channel are getting their papers ready, Bhutan Broadcasting Service is preparing to launch its second TV channel beginning next year

Even before the country’s national television station, Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) goes 24/7, it will launch a second channel soon.

The channel, which will also air news, is expected to be up and running by January next year with its first coverage of the winter session of Parliament.

The proposal for the second channel has already been approved by the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority. However, the communications officer from BICMA told Business Bhutan that BBS will not be given any additional frequency and will have to manage with the existing one.

The BICM Act clearly states that any organization that has a license to broadcast can add any number of channels provided they get an approval from the Authority.

The same will apply to any successful private television broadcaster.

“This comes as a value added service for a license holder and they can choose to have as many channels as possible,” said the head of telecommunication department at BICMA, Wangay Dorji.

The second channel, according to BBS officials, will mainly be used to telecast the National Assembly and National Council proceedings.

“Covering the sessions had always been a problem in the past,” said the managing director of BBS, Thinley Dorji. “With the new channel, we want to give an option to our viewers,” he said.

With two channels, BBS anticipates that they will be able to do justice by telecasting the discussion of both the parliament houses. Currently, BBS is in the process of acquiring resources and equipment. The team will be working with the same manpower to begin with.

While BBS plans to kickstart the new channel by broadcasting the Parliament sessions, the team is busy strategizing content for the new channel.

“We will have news and current affairs and will have to distribute contents between the two channels,” said the general manager for TV, Tashi Dorji. “We will also be exploring opportunities for other ventures.”

However, BBS will not compromise with its public service mandate, he said.

According to the general manager, the scope for the new channel will be to explore and expand relevant content for the youth. “We will also have a bit of commercial content,” he said.

BBS is also planning to increase the air time for news from 15 minutes to half an hour.

Second Radio station

In the meanwhile, BBS is also planning to launch a second radio station. Same BICMA rules apply here, too.

The main purpose of the new radio station is to promote the national language as it will be broadcast only in Dzongkha. The existing station broadcasts in English, Lhotshamkha and Tshanglakha.

BBS has also converged television and radio news. “Convergence has come as a plus point and we can improve on the quality of the news,” said the managing director.

Private TV license

BICMA has received six applicants wanting to start private TV stations.

It was earlier announced that interested applicants should buy the expressions of interest (EoI) package from BICMA after paying Nu 50,000 before November 15. The six applicants have already bought it.

As of November 15, three applicants have already submitted the EoI which BICMA earlier said would be evaluated and an in-principle license will be given if all conditions are met. In a recent development, BICMA has extended the EoI submission deadline till March 15, next year.

“We will not be evaluating those EoIs before March 15 and those who have already submitted will also have to wait,” said Wangay Dorji.

On the other hand, those who have already submitted the EoIs say it will not be fair to make them wait till the extended deadline for the evaluation of their EoI.

“I have already sent a petition letter to BICMA to evaluate our proposal,” said the promoter of Rabsel Media, Sanghey Tensin. “Just because others are not ready, we cannot suffer,” he said.

“In six months time, the technology and costing will change and this is going to affect our plan,” he added.

Sanghey Tensin was one of the first applicants who made a presentation of his TV proposal to BICMA in October last year and waited to buy the EoI after BICMA made an announcement of the open selection.

On the contrary, the vice chairman of Singye group of Companies, Ugen Tshechub, said, “We have just bought the EoI and we will need four to five months to ready ourselves. We are very much interested to start a private television station.”

BICMA also indicated the possibility of licensing all the six private television stations by next year.

“Any individual, group or company, who meet the requirements will be granted the license,” said the media officer with BICMA, Lakshuman Chhetri.

BICMA’s rationale to license private television is to provide choice of information and entertainment to the Bhutanese people. A part of the objective is also to complement BBS to keep the citizens informed and educate, stimulate interest in new topics and strengthen country’s cultural identity.

“The main objective is to provide opportunity for growth of private sectors in television broadcasting services,” said Wangay Dorji. “BICMA has no restrictions if all aspirants meet the criteria.”

BICMA assured that it will not restrict the number of television channels but will strictly monitor the content.

The open licensing process for establishment and operations of private television broadcasting was announced in September this year. BICMA also prepared and circulated a consultation document to solicit views and opinions from stakeholders.

The evaluation of proposals for license of private television broadcasting will be done in two stages namely pre-qualification and final selection.

Those applicants who qualify for a license to establish and operate television facility will be liable to pay a fee as well as a spectrum fee in accordance with the National Radio rules.

A minimum of Nu 30M is needed for investment, while cross ownership and foreign direct investment will be disallowed.

Speaking to Business Bhutan, information and communications minister, Lyonpo Nandalal Rai said, “It will be a good competition for BBS and it will raise the bar.”

By Saraswati Sundas in Business Bhutan