Govt. outlines plans to support mainstream media

Providing printing subsidy, capacity building courses and enhancing media council are plans that the government is looking into to address various challenges faced by the mainstream media.

This was divulged by information and communications minister Karma Donnen Wangdi when quizzed by the Member of Parliament (MP) from Bartsham-Shongphu constituency in Trashigang, Passang Dorji (Ph.D), on possible government intervention to address the challenges the mainstream news organizations are facing, which include financial, human resource and market during the deliberation in the National Assembly yesterday.

According to the MoIC minister, printing subsidy of Nu 2.609mn, which sums up to about 50% of the cost, are planned to be provided by the government. In addition, content development grant of Nu 3mn are already in the budget allocation bill.

The ministry will also provide human resource assistance services as stated in the 12th Plan.

“Long term training for 57 individuals, diploma courses for 30 and short term courses for 225 will be provided to foster the human resource challenges,” the minister said.

The government, it was informed, will also enhance media council, which has been constituted as per the Information Communications and Media Act 2018.  The independent organization is aimed to promote and protect freedom and independence of the media, accredit and certify journalists practicing in Bhutan and protect the freedom of press and promote its functioning.

Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi added that the importance of media and communication is known to everyone and media is considered to be the fourth estate. “It is considered to be one of the most vital components,” he added.

 According to the minister, starting 2011 to 2017 the government has invested Nu 23.5mn on mainstream news organizations (newspaper and television), including budgets for Dzongkha language software, capacity development training, workshop, study tours and grants for content development and annual media awards.

“Other assistance such as Journalists Association of Bhutan (JAB) spends six million in media tourism projects which is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDCs).While UN democracy fund contributed an amount of Nu 8.7mn from 2016 to 2018,” the Lyonpo added.

Additionally, it was also informed that the then government provided a seed fund of Nu 3mn to start JAB and that the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources had been providing courses and trainings to the journalists.

Meanwhile, MP Passang Dorji suggested that the government should frame policies aligning to the freedom of the press. 

The MoIC minister said the challenges regarding financial and human resources are due to changing process of the policies and relevant organizations are yet to be established.

 “Once such organizations are established, it will help mainstream news organizations solve those challenges,” he added.

Phub Dem from Thimphu