Bhutan’s Minister of Information and Communication Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi stressed the importance of radio and television in times of peace and during natural calamities.
These media platforms are also crucial in a small country like Bhutan, with rugged mountains of the Himalayas, making it even more difficult and expensive to communicate, he told participants during the inaugural ceremony of the 45th Annual Gathering/18th AIBD General Conference & Associated Meetings in Paro on 22 August 2019.
In his speech, the Information Minister said Bhutan has 100% coverage of radio and television in the urban areas, and 70% radio coverage in the rural areas.
He also said that Bhutan has licensed private media houses in 2005 as the government believes in the importance of independent media and acknowledges the need for more perspectives. In additional to state owned Kuensel newspaper and BBS radio, the country now has seven private newspapers, three private radio stations and a few community radio and campus radio stations.
He said the government has also enacted the Information, Communications and Media Act, and works are underway to change the status of the Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS), to that of a public service broadcaster.
The government is also in the process of upgrading BBS for enhanced definition and wider reach, including the digitisation of the BBS by 2023.
“ The hosting of prestigious international events, such as this General Conference, provides good opportunities for Bhutan to interact and learn from the outside world, and advance the interests of broadcasting in the region”, he said.
He thanked AIBD and its partners for helping Bhutan in capacity building through training and technical assistance.
Mr. Fayyaz Shehryar, President of the AIBD General Conference, and Director General of All India Radio, India also spoke during the inaugural ceremony.
In his opening remarks, he took cognisance of broadcasters’ initiatives to become more professional in a fiercely competitive market. He urged media practitioners to choose different broadcast technologies that best meet the needs of their respective countries.
He also spoke about the problem of illiteracy in the region, urging broadcasters to help deal with this situation.
Mr Tshering Wangchuk, BBS CEO, delivered the welcome remarks, saying that Bhutan is most privileged to host a big gathering of broadcasters for the first time.
He spoke briefly about the challenges and initiatives of BBS to fulfil its mandate to inform, educate and entertain the people of Bhutan.
During the inaugural ceremony, a cultural show was presented to highlight local songs and dances. Winners of the AIBD Awards 2019 were also honoured.
Another highlight of the ceremony was the presentation of a commemorative award to the Bhutan Minister of Information and Communication for the successful hosting of the AIBD General Conference, and also a commemorative award for Cambodian Information Minister Dr Khieu Kanharith for the success of the the 16th Asia Media Summit in Siem Reap.