Government can’t spoon feed media

Published on Nov 03 2011 // Media Monitor
By Sonam Tenzin

The fact that several media houses has mushroomed in the last few years stands as an embodiment of the support that the government has rendered to the media.

Apart from the advertisements, the government has created a congenial environment for the media to grow.

The Prime Minister, Jigmi Y Thinley informed the media when questioned if the government is doing enough to support the media during the 17th meet the Press.

“We do it discretely through a huge unnecessary excessive advertisement budget which is as high as Nu 300 million per year, that’s a lot and that is what is keeping you going,” Lyonchhen said. He added that it would be wrong for the government to call up each media owner and say “here is the budget” or dish out specific allocation and put a budget line. Lyonchhen underlined that the government does it discretely and indirectly so that the “media do not feel obligated to the government” and prompt the government to control the media.

Lyonchhen mentioned that the government has been giving advertisements “even though the advertisements, circulation and information do not reach the intended target.”

“Most of the circulation is confined to Thimphu and few cities, but we are keeping our eyes shut.”

Lyonchhen stated that there is a broader objective of building a good democracy beyond the purpose of advertising. “There can’t be a good democracy without an effective independent media.”

He reminded that the advertisement policy which the Ministry of Information and Communications (MOIC) came up with, which was based on circulation reach was never in placed.

“Because the government did not think it was the right time and because you were not happy with it,” Lyonchhen said, adding that most media would have been disappeared if the advertisement policy based on circulation had gone through.

“I think five years is the minimum you (media) need to develop and grow to a stage where you participate in a competitive environment and that had not yet come.”

The Prime Minister even questioned the media whether there have been any instances where the government made life difficult for “any media person.” “In other countries media people would envy you, truly.”

The information and communications minister Nandalal Rai spoke about the trainings, workshops and seminars that are being held for the media both within and outside the country.

Lyonpo said that the government is there to support the media and that the media should not be hesitant to talk to the government.

He also added that most “media people are waiting for the news to come to them rather than you going after the news.”

Meanwhile, the Works and Human Settlement Minister, Yeshey Zimba said that if the government provides media with subsidy or budget, the media would no longer be independent. Lyonpo also said that more than 80 percent of the income generated by the media is from government advertisements and notifications although it does not reach the intended people.

“We still close our eyes and give you.”

From Bhutan Today daily, Thursday, 03 November 2011