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Private media has bleak future

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Before 2006, Kuensel Corporation Ltd. and Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation (BBSC) were synonymous with the Bhutanese mainstream news media.

With the entry of two new private newspapers in 2006, Bhutan Times Ltd. and Bhutan Observer Private Ltd. marked the beginning of the industry’s radical growth. But within a short span of five years, the number of newspapers grew to twelve (eight in English and four in Dzongkha). The number of radio stations increased to five. A couple of news magazines were also launched during the intervening period.

Bhutanese newspapers and magazines
Bhutanese newspapers and magazines

The liberalization of media market, necessitated by the democratization process, was a major impetus that encouraged the proliferation of news organizations in Bhutan.

Now the news media industry in Bhutan especially by the private media house is experiencing lots of challenges like never ever before. The economic situation of market sustainability has tested already by some of the private media house.

The report in the Situation Assessment of Journalists in Bhutan states that the Assessment done by the Journalists Association of Bhutan (JAB) is expected to serve as a basis for policy interventions and strategic direction from the agencies and authorities concerned to enable the media to play its role and contribute to the growth of our democratic society. The study is the first of its kind and its findings could be used as point of departure to work toward building a strong, healthy, responsible and responsive press in the country.

Now maximum journalist had left the profession and enters into the job market for the better jobs.

The report states that the 71 percent of working journalists feels that journalism has become unattractive and lost its attractions. The low salary packages, professional hazards, and the lack of public recognition of the profession are cited as the main reasons.

The report further states that most former journalists left their profession because they wanted to change their profession. However, a good number of them said low salary and better opportunities propelled them to leave, while others mentioned professional hazards including censorship, threats and long working hours as reasons for their exit.

The current media situation is extremely bad, according to most journalists. They say the lack of government support (policy interventions and provision of incentives for quality journalism), unsustainable economics of the media industry, absence of quality journalism and censorship are the main causes. 58 percent of working journalists mentioned the existing media legislation and policies failed to ensure media development in the country.

The report states that, private media houses are facing with the financial shortages since they depend on the government advertisement for sustainability of the media house but due to government’s budgetary deficit since 2012, the private media houses are on the verge of bankruptcy and the closure.

The study report states that the journalists working in private media organizations earn far less than those working in State-owned ones. About 40 percent of journalists working in private media organizations reported of not receiving their salaries on time (at the end of the month). They have not been paid between one to four months in a row. Some of them reportedly borrowed money from friends and relatives to support themselves while others moved in with their parents and friends.

The survey covered 90 journalists working in 16 media organizations and 29 former journalists. The primary objective of the study was to identify constraints and challenges facing journalists in discharging their responsibilities and assess prevailing media policies and freedom to practice journalism (access to information and challenges).

Courtesy:  Bhutan Times’ Facebook

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