No restrictions on number of applicants

Published on Sep 15 2011 // Media Monitor

… so long as they can part with Nu 30M for initial investment

15 September, 2011 – Starting today, the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) will accept applications for private television stations.

With the expression of interest, a policy for licencing TV stations ready, BICMA has now “leveled the playing field” for any Bhutanese interested to begin a TV station.

At a press conference yesterday, the authority’s director, Sonam Phuntsho, said the opportunity to start a private TV station is open to all including existing media houses.

“But before you are issued a TV licence, the existing licence you have won’t be allowed to be sold or transferred,” he explained. “The existing media house license will automatically be cancelled.”

This, he said, was done to ensure cross ownership does not occur.

Selection of TV broadcasting stations, BICMA officials said was divided into two stages, where the first stage would be to verify documents submitted by the applicants.

“We will verify all documents, see who this person is, what connections he or she has and ensure that everything is transparent,” he said. “The moment you try and hide something, we will disqualify.”

However equipment, plant and machineries of such licence holders would be allowed for sale through a public auction.

Head of telecommunication division Wangay Dorji said it was an open licencing system with no restrictions on the number of TV stations.

“As long as the criteria we have set is met the licences would be issued.”

This opportunity however comes at a cost.

Applicants must pay a non-refundable application-processing fee of Nu 50,000 while pre-registering and must be investing a minimum of Nu 30M.

This amount of Nu 30M, Wangay Dorji explained, was estimated to keep the company running for five years even if it does not make profit.

BICMA officials said all five applicants, who have applied for TV station licences so far will now have to reapply according to the authority’s criteria.

All applicants will have to provide comprehensive information on the company that they want to form and a detailed financial plan.

Detailed information on infrastructure and technology and professionalism and human resource capacity should also be provided by the applicants.

“We are providing them enough time, a year, to ensure that they have the people on the ground to operate the television broadcasting service,” the director said.

On program and content, applicants will have to provide strategies on how programs would be done followed by an impact report on how their service would impact the nation.

“They must also provide evidences to show that they have the capacity to do it,” Sonam Phuntsho said. “This is something they will have to stand by legally.”

The deadline to submit the expression of interests is November 15, which authority officials might extend. Services are expected to commence by January next year if the deadline is observed.

“Applications should score a minimum of 60 percent during evaluation for us to give an approval in principal,” Wangay Dorji said.

By Sonam Pelden in Kuensel