The first executive director of Bhutan Media Foundation, Lily Wangchhuk talks to Business Bhutan’s Phuntsho Wangdi on her plans for the foundation.
Q. What is the first thing that you want to do for the media?
As we have a young media, with few exceptions, our media currently lacks the professionalism, specialization, maturity, substance, research and depth. It is not only urban centric but there is emerging lack of trust and credibility of the media and over reliance on the government to sustain. I would like to address the current scenario by aiming to strengthen professionalism, advance media studies, advocate public interest and promote excellence in journalism and communications disciplines besides encouraging specialization, variety and enabling the media to fulfilling its key role of informing, educating and entertaining that caters to both the urban and rural population.
Q. What are the challenges you might face?
Currently there is lack of partnership and adequate coordination amongst media agencies. I would like to promote and create a better environment that is cooperative and conducive not only amongst media agencies and media professionals but also with other relevant partners and institutions. I intend to achieve this by supporting and encouraging initiatives that allow media professionals from varied background to interact, address common issues, advance professional skills, and assist in the professional growth of the Bhutanese media through the formation of Journalist Association and Press/Media Clubs and other networking opportunities.
The other challenge is media houses are very different from each other in terms of size, reach, ownership, operation cost, and frequency of publications or airing, among others. Thus different media agencies will have different issues and challenges that will need to taken into consideration. There are also challenges with the issue of sustainability of ailing media houses for which we intend to provide stimulus packages but it will be dependent on certain criteria. We will also assist media agencies with information and ideas that will be drawn from international best practice and lessons learned from other countries on addressing sustainability related issues, which would probably help them realign their strategies and priorities.
Q. How do you think Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF) can foster the growth of a strong and vibrant media in the country?
It will be the objective of BMF to foster the professional growth of the Bhutanese media by supporting need based training opportunities, exchange programs and links with training institutions, professional associations, research centers, and media organizations both within and outside Bhutan, supporting in-country journalism and mass communication program in colleges and institutes, supporting participation in seminars, workshops, and conferences on issues related to the media, institute in-country scholarships for journalism studies to Bhutanese students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The BMF will also work towards supporting free and independent media in the country by upholding the rights of citizens to information, and freedom of expression and media, protecting the rights of journalists, media houses, and their sources, safeguarding editorial independence and instituting a system to recognize journalistic works. In addition, it will also work towards supporting literacy and media awareness initiatives, promote national language and civic education programs in the media, provide stimulus packages to ailing media houses, support initiatives which create avenues to educate people through direct contact with media professionals and provide a platform for public to engage in public discourse which is crucial in democratic Bhutan.
Q. What are your the key priorities being the executive director of BMF? If you could list down top three priorities.
My first priority is to review and understand the current operating environment of our media including its challenges, gaps and opportunities. This exercise will enable us to formulate our strategic plan for media development covering both short and long term interventions and activities. I would also like to draw on international best practices from other young democratic countries.
The second priority is work towards implementation of the strategic plan which will be in line with the charter and outcome of consultative process with media organizations and relevant partners. It will mainly be targeted at constructively promoting and ensuring positive influence on the role of the media in the practice of democratic governance in Bhutan; facilitate a stronger relation between the academia, media practitioners and governance; encourage, and assist in the development of media programs which specifically engages civil society on issues of governance, democracy and the media as public opinion is an important aspect.
The third priority but most important will be ongoing efforts with resource mobilization. Given His Majesty’s personal commitment in strengthening our media and democracy, we are currently starting the Foundation with a seed fund of Nu 15m contributed by His Majesty. However, we intend to work towards making BMF self sustainable in the long run. This would require much networking and effort in identifying and approaching relevant partners within the country and outside for both technical and financial support towards media development in the country besides establishing institutional linkages and collaboration with relevant partners.
Source: Business Bhutan