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BICMA censors 91 TV channels

In a move to standardize and bring uniformity among TV channels viewed across the country

 

 

To standardize and to bring uniformity among the number and types of television (TV) channels in the country, the Bhutan Infocomm and Media Authority (BICMA) on August 15 sent notifications to all the Dzongkhags enclosing the list of TV channels for distribution throughout the country.

This came into effect from September 1.

Talking to Business Bhutan, the Chief Licensing Officer and the officiating Director General of BICMA, Wangay Dorji, said that the decision to standardize and ensure uniformity came after an assessment study was conducted for the existing TV channels before September 1.

“The assessment report revealed that there were disparities in channel distribution among the Dzongkhags,” he said, adding that while some Dzongkhags had lesser channels, others had more than 60 channels.

The assessment report revealed that including BBS 1 and 2, there were 147 channels throughout the country, which after the assessment was brought down to 56.

“Some channels like LifeOK channel did not make the cut as it is all about crime and it is not really a decent channel,” said Wangay Dorji. He also added that studies revealed that if people are exposed to such kinds of programs for a long period of time, they tend to become desensitized. “We are just trying to standardize so that there is parity and the channels are in line with culture.”

The General Secretary of Association for Bhutan Cable Operators (ABCO), Sherub Gyeltshen, said that though the majority of members appreciated BICMA’s initiative to standardize and remove some of the channels as an interim measure until digitization of CATV is completed, this decision by BICMA seems to be contradicting provisions of more digital services (channels), convergence of ICT services, giving more choices to the viewers and improving picture quality.

This, he said, would go against the culture of transparency and accountability in business operations.

“I do not see any positive change this directive would bring unless measures are taken against the illegal direct-to-home television (DTH) which pays 0% tax to the government and drains out a huge amount of unregulated INR in buying the sets and for the monthly recharge cost,” said Sherub Gyeltshen.

Sherub Gyeltshen said that this move will only give a competition advantage to the illegal DTH suppliers as their content can neither be monitored nor standardized.

However, Wangay Dorji said that the current number of channels is not a ceiling for cable operators. “If tomorrow, there is good content and people come to BICMA to allow the channel, it will be subjected to review and if it meets requisite criteria, we will always allow it,” he said, adding that right now, BICMA is only trying to narrow the disparities.

According to Wangay Dorji, 98% of the children’s programs aired on TV is either in English or Dzongkha. However, the notification from BICMA warns that despite repeated notifications, the Authority still found children’s program being shown in other languages besides Dzongkha and English.  “Therefore the Authority once again directs the cable operators to strictly abide by the earlier directives on children’s program,” states the notification.

This week, BICMA sent another letter to the Dzongkhags to monitor if the cable operators are adhering to the approved list of channels.

Lucky Wangmo from Thimphu