The Fourth Estate

Some of the worst crimes in history have been committed with the best of intentions.

The government, as part of its periodic austerity measures, wants to save costs and so one of the measures is e-procurement bypassing advertising in the media.

In the larger scheme of things, the advertisement budget is only a very small and shrinking portion of government expenditure, but still a few pennies are saved and the officials have something to show.

So the bureaucrats and agencies may feel that they have achieved their objective within their respective silos- oblivious to the larger national impact.

The national impact is that around three to four rounds of reductions in government advertisement starting from 2010 has had a devastating impact on Bhutan’s fledgling media scene.

A media scene, which from 2006 to 2010 was thriving and on the up, started a slow but sure decline as the ads dried up.

Now, there is a viewpoint out there that treats the media as any other business that should not be dependent on government advertisements, and should come up with a business model to survive on its own.

In theory, everything is possible, but the ground reality is that Bhutan’s private sector is too small to sustain the media and so like most aspects of the economy- the government is the main source of business.

The media has been an enormously important part of Bhutan’s democratic transition and process so far, and a lot of things taken for granted by agencies, institutions and the public are roles that only the media can perform.

Be it the fight against corruption, checking and balancing governments and parties, highlighting socio-economic issues, protecting rights and liberties, spreading awareness on important issues and so much more; the media has played a very important role.

The near collapse of the private media and the eventual impact on the state owned media due to some silo based decisions is dangerous for Bhutan in many ways.

“The only security of all is in a free press.” 
Thomas Jefferson

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