Exemption of 30% entertainment tax for media houses and TV operators, the status of Bhutan Broadcasting Service as public broadcaster, and establishing Media Council and National Film Commission were the main issues during the deliberation of Information Communications and Media Bill of Bhutan 2017 in the National Council last Monday.
The Deputy Chairperson MP Tshering Dorji said media houses and TV operators catering to news and information should be exempted from the 30% entertainment tax that is currently being charged on them and which is ultimately paid by the customers.
According to him, for promoting good governance and participatory democracy, news and information must be provided correctly and on time, and it should be treated differently from entertainment industries.
Highlighting the importance of BBS to reach every nook and corner of the country for national integrity, the Deputy Chairperson sought the ministry’s strategy on connecting BBS to the rural areas, where people having access to other channels through dish TV have no access to BBS.
Responding on the query, the information and communications minister, Lyonpo D N Dhungyel, said BBS Radio and TV would soon reach every nook and corner of the country with the help of the South Asia Satellite.
South Asia Satellite, according to the minister, was launched in May this year and ground works are currently underway to construct a satellite ground station. The planning has been reportedly done and the funds mobilized.
Lyonpo D N Dhungyel is hopeful of finishing the construction of the South Asia Satellite ground station in the next six months, after which every house will have access to BBS Radio and TV services.
The South Asia Satellite, as described by the minister, is a gift from India to its neighboring countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The satellite technology will also enable Bhutan to venture into new areas such as Navigation & GIS systems, and earth observation, and help overcome the challenges to progress in scientific fields.
Introducing the Bill, Lyonpo D N Dhungyel outlined the background of the Bill focusing on four areas that included a brief background on the BICMA Act 2006; the reason for reviewing the Act; the salient features of the new Bill and the financial memorandum.
He further reported that the new Bill is expected to align the roles and responsibility of the ministry, BICMA and other related bodies.
Meanwhile, the Bill was passed with the amendments in the 9th session of the National Assembly and forwarded to the National Council. Accordingly, in the 9th session of the National Council, the Good Governance Committee was assigned with the review work.
Presenting the major amendments made by the Committee on the Bill, MP Tharchen and the Chairperson of the Good Governance Committee said in reviewing the Bill, the Committee has not only conducted various stakeholders meeting with concerned agencies, but also reviewed related international laws to make necessary amendments to the Bill.
Furthermore, MP Kamal Bdr. Gurung, the Deputy Chairperson of the Committee, highlighted the objectives of establishing the Media Council and National Film Commission.
Deliberating on the Bill, house members shared their concerns and sought clarification on the proposal made by the Committee on various sections, such as deletion of Advisory Council, board members of the Authority, tenure of the members of the Authority from three to five years, financing and functioning of the Authority, and National Film Commission, among others.
The House re-assigned the Committee to resolve the issues and concerns raised by the members and submit the final Bill for adoption at the later date.
Pema Seldon from Thimphu