Considering the challenges faced by the mainstream news organizations in terms of finance, human resource and market among others, Bartsham Shongphu MP Passang Dorji questioned the government on what are the possible interventions the government is thinking off to address the issue, he asked this during question and hour session of the third ongoing parliament session.
Information and Communication Minister Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi said, “The government considers media as the fourth branch of the government considering the crucial role played by the media and everyone is aware of this”.
Lyonpo said, “The government has always provided support to media. From 2011 to 2017, the government has provided Nu 23.5 million to media organizations for the procurement of equipments, development of software, capacity development training, workshop and study tours, content development grant and annual journalism awards”.
He said, “For Media Pluralism Project, Swiss Agency for Development Corporation (SDC) provided Nu 6 million and United Nation Democracy Fund (UBDF) provide Nu 8.7 million to Journalist association of Bhutan (JAB). In addition, the government provided Nu 300,000 for the formation of JAB”.
Lyonpo said, “The government is supporting the annual Journalism award and also providing training on skill development. Other relevant agencies are also providing around 20 short term and long term training in India, Australia and Europe.
There are around 44 journalists in the country and the government will provide around 271 internship programmes”.
He said, “In the 12th Five Year Plan, the government will provide a printing subsidy of Nu 2.609 million and support 50 per cent of the printing cost and the government will also provide Nu 3 million for content development grant”.
Lyonpo said, “In the 12th plan, the government is planning to provide 57 long term training, 30 diploma courses and 225 short time trainings”.
He said, “We have Media Act in place but we do not have media council to implement it, so in 12th plan, we would like to come up with media council who will play a significant role in strengthening Media organizations”.
While state owned media organizations are either financially sustainable or get government support, the worst hit are the private media starting from 2010 when the government started cutting back on advertisements which is the main source of revenue.
According to all private media houses the unanimous opinion is that the need of the hour is sustainability but many media related agencies are still focused on training shrinking newsroom, ignoring the slow death of media houses. The beneficiaries of these training programs are more the trainers and consultants who charge fat fees for very little impact.
There is a high level of disillusionment among private media houses who feel that past programs have not been effective and funds that come in their name are mostly wasted on ineffective programs or even spent on unrelated areas.
The private media houses have pointed out that the only effective program so far is the printing subsidy which attracts only a tiny amount of the media funds.