Bhutanese Media Lacks Professional and Technical Capacity

Lack of professional and technical capacity in Bhutanese media proved to be the key findings of the media baseline study which was launched during the media stakeholder meeting earlier this week in the capital.

All the media organizations in the country are faced with acute shortage of professional human resource and are in dire need of special trainings for employees. The study recommends a host of strategies mainly focused on training of journalists to improve professional standards and the quality of media.

Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF) has already worked out a five-year strategic plan comprised of six key priority areas and 27 targets. The annual work plan for July – December, 2012, has been finalized as said by BMF’s Executive Director Lily Wangchuk. More than 15 different initiatives or activities have been planned for the rest of the year which shall cover all fields.

The study also revealed limited technical capacity in the media resulting in content stalemate, lack of creativity and innovative ideas due to lack of adequate number of people with technical background such as web designers and professionals with background in marketing, circulation, distribution, advertising, printing, production, editing, and other related fields.

Lack of training opportunities in technical fields and insignificant recognition and incentives were also identified.

BMF is now considering provision of adequate trainings and assistance in technical field as well.

Lily Wangchuk said, “for the first time in the country, we will be conducting trainings not only for reporters and editors but also for designers, marketing officers, photographers, circulation officers, administrative officers and so on and so forth”.

However, during the stakeholders’ meeting, few raised that there were some duplication in the areas of providing trainings. Another round of consultative meeting, with the relevant stakeholders, might be held soon in order to endorse the plans.

CEO of Bhutan Times Ugyen Pelgen said there is definitely a dearth of professional journalists today but Bhutanese media, five years from now will possess enough professional capacity with the implementation of BMF’s strategic plan and colleges introducing journalism courses.

The study also found that retaining trained and experienced journalists, editors and other professionals has become a challenge for media organizations owing to meager salaries and incentives. This has led to unhealthy competition between media houses such as offering better financial packages for few professionals despite financial woes of organizations.

CEO of Bhutan Observer Phuntsho Wangmo said her company earlier conducted numerous on-the-job trainings in addition to government sponsored workshops. However, the organization is now facing a difficult time retaining the same employees owing to mushrooming of new media houses offering more for their services.

“The major problem now is not lack of professionals in the organization but difficulty in retaining these professionals”, she said.

A stakeholder at the meeting pointed out the liberal licensing policy as the main cause of depleting media standards.

Department of Information and Media’s (DoIM) Head of Information and Media Development Division, Monira A.Y. Tsewang said the liberal licensing policy will still exist and “nobody has any idea about what should be the required number of media houses in the country”.

Other key challenges listed by the media baseline study are lack of access to information, sustainability of media firms and urban centric coverage among others.

The report highlights the importance to facilitate media’s access to information with early enactment of Right to Information (RTI) since media organizations has indicated challenges in accessing information from government agencies in the absence of adequate system for information dissemination.

The report states that access to and availability of information is the basis for accurate research and reporting by the media and the media has the responsibility of informing the nation and its people on matters and issues concerning their livelihoods, welfare and other strategic concerns of national importance in a sustained manner.

While BMF has committed to assist media with its training master plan, few participants at the meeting cited sustainability as the main issue which needs to be addressed first.

Editor of Bhutan Today, Ugyen Tenzin, who also attended the meeting, said all the strategic plans for media development is of no use if media houses die out.

Bhutan Observer’s CEO also said the study report has added very little value to what is already known by all media stakeholders. “Real issues facing the industry are loosely mentioned and hidden between the lines”, she said.

She said the findings of the study failed to identify the most critical issue of media houses which is sustainability. “Unless sustainability issue is quickly addressed, BMF’s work plan which is mainly focused on capacity building will be a misdirection of effort, energy and investment and will be of little use if the media industry cannot retain the trained journalists”, she added.

In the case of the four Dzongkha newspapers, it is learnt that lack of professional capacity is a salient observation. While some employees hailed from monastic backgrounds and other fields, their reporting is found to be not in line with basic standards of journalism.

Representatives of Dzongkha newspapers at the meeting also highlighted on sustainability and demanded better assistance justifying that the circulation of their papers has improved two fold.

A stakeholder said, “our prime audience is the rural section of the society because of which we have difficulty in getting advertisements and support from the capital”. He said it is only the government agencies who have been refraining from reading or supporting the paper.

BMF, referring to them as vulnerable journalists, is currently working on providing equal assistance in terms of trainings and workshops. Lilly Wangchuck said the Dzongkha media houses could look at identifying some resource persons to facilitate trainings for the media personnel.

The study was commissioned by Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF) to WEDIA Consultancy. Information and Communications’ Minister, Nandalal Rai, graced the launch of Media Baseline Study, HRD master plan for media and media directory 2012, on June 11

Currently there are 12 newspapers, 5 radio stations, 6 magazines and 1 television station in the country all of which has been found by the study as lacking professional and technical capacity.

 

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by The Bhutanese (www.thebhutanese.bt)

This story from Sangay Tshomo

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