Radio in Bhutan has come a long way when with just a table, three chairs and a transmitter rented from a local telegraph office in Thimphu, the first radio station of Bhutan was formed by a voluntary group of youths known as the National Youth Association of Bhutan (NYAB) on 11 Nov, 1973.
The initial broadcasts were news and music for an hour each Sunday under the name ‘Radio NYAB.’ The first Secretary for the club was Ashi Louis.
The first ever show was hilarious, recalls Dasho Paljor J Dorji. “It was to begin with the news but the news guy didn’t turn up and I had to go with the songs,” he said adding that, “‘Here comes the Judge’ was my show those days and it was all about requests and dedications along with messages.”
There were seven radio stations in the country; one went off air. Since there was no means of communication those days, Radio NYAB played an active role passing on messages. It was very difficult to get news, then, especially local news as the government did not provide any information. So, the volunteers gathered news and made their own bulletins for about ten points with the help of the news guy.
“During our one hour program on every Sunday, all the volunteers were given a task or a show and I read news most of the time even though it was difficult to get news those days,” said Ashi Louis, adding that they were paid Nu 700 a month, the standard government wage rate.
In 1979, the government incorporated the station (NYAB) under the Ministry of Communication recognizing the importance of radio for development communication. In 1986, the small radio broadcast studio was renamed Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) where three hours of daily broadcast was introduced.
In 1991, BBS acquired a permanent place in Chubachu, Thimphu with FM radio service across the country with 24 hours of broadcast in four languages-Dzongkha, English, Lhotsamkha and in Sharchop.
Bhutan’s first FM radio station was launched on 8 May, 2009 on campus is in a little room in a corner of Sherubtse College, Kanglung, Trashigang. It was started by a student, Namgyel Dorji. It is managed by student leaders and it is broadcast in Kanglung only. The RJs are all undergraduate student volunteers. Programs like youth related issues, topical issues, democracy, college programs andcourses are being discussed in their shows along with good music.
The Sherubtse FM is funded byUNICEF and was approved by Bhutan Information, Communication and Media Authoruty (BICMA).
The first youth based nonprofit organization, Kuzoo FM started on 28 September, 2006, at Chubachu, Thimphu. Presently Kuzoo FM is on air 24 hours daily. Kuzoo is one of the pet projects of His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk.
It was mainly started for the youths and it is also called ‘The Voice of the Youth.’ It is a medium of entertainment for youths, so that they don’t indulge in drugs and alcohol.
“Kuzoo is a farsighted program that instills in young people the courage to dream and enable them to look beyond, and share the experiences of the young people in order to build the ‘can do’ spirit to overcome problems and challenges,” said Radio Jockey (RJ), Kinzang Wangchuk.
On 12 April, 2007, the next station was established in Thimphu by Kinley Wangchuk, popularly known as ‘Ganchu’ in Radio Valley (R.V), 99.9 MHz. “It just struck me one night that I wanted to open a radio station and immediately started working on it the next day. I quit my job because I always wanted to do something satisfactory,” added Kinley Wangchuk.
Kinley Wangchuk was inspired by ‘Radio City’ of India so he named his radio station ‘Radio Valley.’
Coinciding with His Majesty theKing’s birthday, on 21 February, 2008, Dorji Wangchuk launched a station called the Centenial Radio FM 101 MHz.
Centenial Radio was also the coorganizer of the Citizen’s Initiative for Coronation and Centenary Celebrations of 2008. Asked why Radio, Dorji Wangchuk said: “Radio is almost a business thathas no economic future. But in terms of what it can do for nation-building, democratic process, bringing people together and public discourse, the potential is huge.”
On 12 October, 2010, Kelzang Thinley launched Radio Wave FM 88.8 in Chubachu, Thimphu. The station keeps people updated with the latest news, weather forecast, horoscope and flight schedule.