Open Collections

Digital Himalaya Journals

Mass Media: Its Consumption and Impact on Residents of Thimphu and Rural Areas Rapten, Phuntsho Aug 31, 2001

Item Metadata

Download

Media
dhimjournal-1.0365161.pdf
Metadata
JSON: dhimjournal-1.0365161.json
JSON-LD: dhimjournal-1.0365161-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): dhimjournal-1.0365161-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: dhimjournal-1.0365161-rdf.json
Turtle: dhimjournal-1.0365161-turtle.txt
N-Triples: dhimjournal-1.0365161-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: dhimjournal-1.0365161-source.json
Full Text
dhimjournal-1.0365161-fulltext.txt
Citation
dhimjournal-1.0365161.ris

Full Text

 MASS MEDIA: ITS CONSUMPTION AND IMPACT ON
RESIDENTS OF THIMPHU AND RURAL AREAS
Phuntsho Rapten*
Introduction
Mass Media in Bhutan primarily refers to the radio, Kuensel (the national
newspaper), cinema halls, television and Internet. These are the main media
disseminating information and serving as sources of entertainment.
Although different forms of media were introduced since the launching of
socio-economic development in the 1960s, television and Internet services
were introduced only in June 1999. While television, newspapers, cinemas
and Internet services are largely confined to the urban areas radio is the
only effective communication medium in the rural areas.
A 1998 listener survey1 of five Dzongkhags (Thimphu, Paro, Chukha,
Punakha and Wangdue) gives an idea of the penetration of the media in
Bhutan. Taking an example of all the households in five Dzongkhags on
average, 63.1% own at least one radio receiver, 22.6% own a tape recorder,
6.9 % own a TV screen, 8.4% own a video player or recorder, and 6.5%
own a telephone. Although Kuensel is also widely circulated in the country,
its readership in the villages is very limited due to a low literacy level.
The media in Bhutan have progressively enhanced individual awareness by
widening the scope of information transmission beyond the traditional face-
to-face oral interaction to literacy-oriented communication and now to an
electronic media. They have helped to share information about the past and
present, depict social, cultural and historical aspects of Bhutan that helped
to create a common culture, tradition and system of values.
However, the mass media and information technology are increasingly
becoming powerful instruments for the penetration of global culture and the
values of a global market into Bhutan. This presents one of the greatest
Researcher, The Centre for Bhutan Studies, Thimphu
172
 Mass Media
challenges to Bhutan as it transitions from a traditional society into the age
of information and technology. While the aim is to reap the benefits of
mass media, its excessive influence threatens to undermine indigenous
culture and value-system. The immediate consequences of such a
penetration are already visible through a creation of new Bhutanese culture
in major urban centres like Thimphu and Phuentsholing. This new culture is
entirely different from traditions of the past, and the culture of rural Bhutan
where 79% of the population lives.
Considering the vastness of the subject, this paper, being the first of its
kind, only attempts to elucidate the following:
• Evolution of Mass Media
• Media How and Consumption, and
• Impact on some residents of Thimphu and rural areas.
Methodology
A questionnaire was designed to identify the role of mass media in the rural
and urban areas, how different people select different content of the media
and interpret it in different ways and how they influence their needs,
interests, attitudes and common values. In-depth interviewing was the
primary method used to gather data for this study. In the rural areas, only
two villages were selected based on the following criteria:
• Location of the village at least 4 kilometres from the main
highway
• Villages are clustered (to have easy access to different households)
but situated in different Dzongkhags
• Villagers possess at least one radio, and
• Number of households between 20 to 100.
Based on the above criteria, the following villages were selected for the
study:
173
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
• Tangsibji which has approximately 75 households and is situated 4
Km from the highway in Trongsa Dzongkhag
• Lomnyekha, with about 85 households, and situated 5 Km from
the highway in Chukha Dzongkhag
The Gup2 or Mangi Ap3 was interviewed first who in turn helped to build a
pool of informants in the village. While interviewing, special care was also
taken so that the pool of informants was representative of the village in
relation to gender, age, occupation and economic status.
Unlike the questionnaire for the rural areas, which focused mostly on radio
and very little on Kuensel, the questionnaire for urban residents focused on
television, Kuensel, radio and other newspapers. Among urban centres
Thimphu was chosen for two reasons: Firstly, Bhutan Broadcasting Service
(BBS) television and cable television were first launched in Thimphu.
Secondly, a majority of all media consumers are located in Thimphu. The
questionnaire was distributed to students, civil servants, businessmen,
military personnel, and housewives in different places so as to get a cross
sectional view.
174
 Mass Media
Section I: Evolution of Media
Kuensel, the National Newspaper
The first modern medium of communication was introduced into Bhutan in
1967 when Kuensel was started as a bi-monthly, internal government
bulletin. It was upgraded into a newspaper format with a weekly
circulation in August 1986. Today a 20-page newspaper is the only news
print medium in the country. Its predominant readership is the urban elite
and educated public. It publishes three simultaneous editions in different
languages: the English edition: 12,000 copies; the Dzongkha (the national
language) edition: 3,000 copies; and the Lhotshampa edition: 200-300
copies4. There are no other newspapers or magazines published in Bhutan.
The few other newspapers and periodicals available in the market are
entirely dominated by Indian English-language publications like Times of
India, Telegraph, Economic Times, Hindustan Times, India Today, and The
Outlook. Other international publications available include Newsweek, The
Economist, Far Eastern Economic Review, etc. Government organisations,
corporations and the private sector mostly subscribe to these papers and
periodicals. However, the readership is confined to a relative few, such as
senior members of the government and bureaucracy, or to a few leaders in
the private sector.
Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS)
A rudimentary radio network was first begun when members of the
National Youth Association of Bhutan (NYAB) started its first radio
broadcast in English on an amateur and voluntary basis using the Civil
Wireless Department's 400-Watt Short Wave transmitter on 11 November
1973. It was then only a weekly one-hour transmission. As expectations
from its listeners grew over the years, the station became a part of the
Department of Information and Broadcasting in 1979. Broadcasting hours
were then increased to nine hours a week; three hours daily on Sundays,
Wednesdays and Fridays. With the installation of a 5 KW short-wave
transmitter in 1986, BBS radio officially replaced the Radio NYAB on air.
However, with the development of a new 50 KW short-wave transmitter
and a new studio complex in 1991, BBS made a major breakthrough in the
radio system by enabling its transmissions to cover more distant areas in the
175
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
Kingdom. Coinciding with the 45th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty the
King, on 11 November 2000, the BBS started its broadcast in the morning
by increasing its airtime from over 42 hours to 60 hours a week. It
broadcasts daily in four languages, Dzongkha, the national language,
Sharchopkha and Lhotshampa, two major regional languages, and in
English. Today Bhutanese people can easily catch radio signals through FM
in Thimphu, Paro, Wangdue and Punakha and through short-wave and
medium-wave throughout the country. Plans are underway to cover whole
country with FM transmission.
Cinema Hall and Video Library
Cinema halls are the oldest form of media communication penetrating the
entire country. Out of 11 cinema halls in Bhutan, only nine are operating at
the moment, after the ones in Lungtenphu and Deothang ceased to operate.
The first cinema hall was started in 1960 in Samdrup Jongkhar followed by
MIG in Phuentsholing in 1964 and Losel in Gelephu and Luger in Thimphu
in 19725. Screening of films varies from hall to hall both during the
weekdays and weekends. While the Lugar Theatre in Thimphu screens
twice daily on working days and thrice on weekends, halls in Phuentsholing
screen movies four times a day. In 1999 it is estimated that Bollywood
productions were most popular in all the cinema halls except the Norgay
Cinema in Phuentsholing that screens mostly English films6. Cinemas in
Phuentsholing, Thimphu and Gelephu procure their films on contract basis
from distributors of EIMPA (East Indian Movie Producers Association)
based mostly in Siliguri, West Bengal. These films are not censored in
Bhutan because the Censor Board of India has passed them and hence
cinema hall managers consider the films permissible to be watched in
Bhutan.
Apart from films, videocassettes are also easily available in all most every
district and even in some satellite towns like Gedu, Tala, Khaling, etc. Out
of the total number of 160 video libraries in the country by June 1999, 76
are located in Thimphu. The first video library was set up in Phuentsholing
in 1970 and it was the only one until 1980 when the first video rental,
'Fashion', was set up in Thimphu.
176
 Mass Media
The programmes and documentaries produced by the Development
Communication Centre were among the first local audio-visual productions
on Bhutan. A private A-V company, Ugetsu Communications established
in 1987, made a major breakthrough by producing the first Bhutanese tele
film, Gasa Lami Singye in 1988. Today there are many enthusiastic
Bhutanese film producers, which to date have produced about 24 Bhutanese
films.
Television
Television was officially launched on June 2, 1999. This made a dramatic
change in the media, first by legalising TV broadcasting in Bhutan, and
second, by making it accessible to a larger section of the population.
Television, however, is not new to Bhutan. Before it was confined only to
some families in certain social categories, which received signals through
illegal dish antenna. Although BBS TV broadcasts for only one hour every
day, cable TV service, which was also launched immediately after the
introduction of BBS TV, provides a greater diversity of programmes. Some
cable operators provide more than 40 channels.
177
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
Internet
Internet service in the country was also introduced at the same time as BBS
television. However, access to Internet is very limited and concentrated
mostly in the urban areas due to an easy access to computer and
telecommunication networks and the presence of comparatively more
computer- literate people. Druknet, the sole service provider in Bhutan has
more than 1820 paying customers, mainly concentrated in Thimphu. Most
of them are government users. The public also have access to the Internet
through 'Internet cafes'. There are six in Thimphu, at least two in
Phuentsholing and one in Bumthang. Internet is now becoming a powerful
instrument of communication as it reduces the cost to acquire and
disseminate information. Besides, it is very economical to conduct
international transactions and coordination activities.
Section II: Media Coverage and Consumption
Kuensel
The primary role of Kuensel is to provide news about Bhutan to the
Bhutanese. Its 20-page format includes 6 pages of home news, 1 page of an
opinion section, 3 pages of international news (1 page each for world news,
sports news and science and health), 6 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of
literary section and 2 pages of leisure.
Kuensel provides four other services that are very significant. First, its
editorial section discusses issues of public importance and concern that may
have an impact on national policy. Second, its opinion column enables
people to express their views and opinions. Third, its literary section
encourages the youth to write stories and poems, thereby improving their
literary habits. Fourth, its advertisement section informs people about the
availability of jobs7.
It is a fact that as the district headquarters moves further from Thimphu, the
distribution of Kuensel becomes sparse. Table 1 in the appendix shows that
apart from its direct subscriptions, Thimphu alone received 3457 copies,
Chukha 1270 copies, Paro 890, Bumthang 200 copies, Trashigang 310, and
178
 Mass Media
Trashiyangtsi 11 copies. However, its readership is very limited in the
villages. Retired civil servants, gups and chimis*, community teachers and
extension workers only read it occasionally as and when it is available
through post or from friends.
It is also estimated that 25.3% of Thimphu population purchase Kuensel
weekly and 10.1% occasionally. Similarly, 5.8% of the Paro population
purchase Kuensel weekly and 13.1% occasionally, and 2.5% weekly and
5.8% occasionally in Wangduephodrang9. The following table shows the
readers' choice of language in five Dzongkhags.
Sl.No
Dzongkhag
Kuensel readership by language in percentage
English
Dzongkha
Nepali
1
Chukha
72.9
21.8
16.6
2
Paro
60.2
58.4
0
3
Thimphu
84.2
35.1
4.1
4
Punakha
55.7
71.8
0
5
Wangdue
55.4
71.8
0
Source: Kuensel Reader Survey, Kuensel/CSO/Danida,
1998.
May
It is evident from the above table that readers in general still prefer the
English language edition. This is an indication that Dzongkha, the national
language, which is the Bhutanese national and cultural identity, still needs
to be promoted. The total readership for all editions of Kuensel is estimated
at 125,000. However, the readership of Kuensel is very poor in rural areas.
The following table shows the significant choice of reading.
Reading Preferences (Percentage of readers)
Sl.No
Contents of Kuensel
Want More
Don't Read
1
National News
41.7
2.2
2
Leisure
30.2
7.6
3
International News
25.9
15.2
4
Literary
23.2
11.1
5
Letters and Viewpoints
18.6
16.7
6
Editorials
13.7
23.4
179
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
Source: Kuensel Reader Survey, Kuensel/CSO/Danida,
1998.
May
Besides Kuensel, people also have access to other newspaper and
magazines. The following tables show the distribution of newspaper and
periodicals and their potential buyers in the three largest bookstores in
Thimphu.
Types of daily newspapers sold for the month of November 2000
Book
stores
Times
of India
Telegraphs
Economic
Times
Statesma
n
Asian
Age
Hindustan
Time
The
Hindu
Indian
Expr
ess
Pekha-
ng
135
84
26
11
4
3
3
1
DSB
103
111
23
56
63
16
14
0
Mega
4
6
0
1
0
1
0
0
Total
242
201
49
68
67
20
17
1
Types of weekly periodicals sold for the month of November 2000
Bookst
ores
India
Today
The
Outl
ook
The
Week
Time
Magazine
News
Week
Asia
Week
The
Economis
t
Front
line
Pekhan
g
70
2
1
40
15
26
23
32
DSB
36
9
7
25
27
20
29
33
Mega
5
2
1
3
1
3
1
2
Total
111
13
9
68
43
49
53
67
Types of newspapers subscribed during the month of November 2000
Customers
Times
of India
Telegraphs
Econo
mic
Times
States
man
Asian
Age
Hindust
an
Time
The
Hindu
India
n
Expr
ess
Govt. Offices
163
124
34
31
25
10
6
1
Corporations
8
25
6
22
14
6
5
0
Private Firms
26
27
7
4
23
4
6
0
Institutes/
Schools
4
4
0
0
1
0
0
0
Individuals
41
21
2
11
4
0
0
0
Total
242
201
49
68
67
20
17
0
Types of periodicals subscribed during the month of November 2000
180
 Mass Media
Customers
India
Today
The
Out
look
The
Week
Time
Magaz
ine
News
Week
Asia
Week
The
Econo
mist
Frontline
Govt. Offices
79
7
2
65
37
37
40
47
Corporations
11
0
2
3
6
6
7
2
Private fims
2
1
0
0
0
0
1
1
Institutes/
Schools
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
Individuals
17
5
5
0
0
6
5
16
Total
111
13
9
68
43
49
53
67
Source: Data collected from three bookstores in Thimphu in
month of November 2000.
the
The above figures reveal that government offices are the largest buyers.
They subscribe for 67.3% of Times of India, 61.6% of Telegraphs, 69% of
Economic Times and 45.5% of Statesman. For periodicals, they subscribe
for 71% of India Today, 53% of The Outlook, 95% of Time magazine and
75% of The Economist.
BBS Radio
Considering the topography of the country, diverse language groups and
low literacy and income level, radio serves as the most cost effective and
accessible source of news, information and entertainment among the
Bhutanese people. The programmes that are broadcast are diverse in nature,
from public service programmes to entertainment.
During the weekdays, BBS radio broadcasts for nine and half hours: three
and half hours in Dzongkha language and two hours each in English,
Lhotsham and Sharchogpa languages. On average, the broadcasting
duration for different contents in a day is roughly 2 hours and 20 minutes
for news, 2 hours for music, 55 minutes for advertisement and 30 minutes
for zakar10. BBS also broadcasts some special programmes on specific days
for about three hours and thirty-five minutes in all the languages. Such
programmes include farming, health, environment and youth (Monday &
Tuesday), culture, religion, women, namthar11 (Wednesday & Thursday),
and teaching, feature, story and jokes (Friday). However, during the
weekends BBS broadcasts for only 7 hours. During the weekdays music is
played for about 15 to 30 minutes in the afternoon in all languages and even
longer during the weekends (See table 2 for more detail).
181
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
BBS radio is primarily geared towards the rural population and covers
about 90% of the Bhutanese population. BBS estimates that there are
200,000 to 250,000 radio receivers in the country with a total listening
population of over 400,000 people12. The expansion of FM networks from
FM 92 and 96 Mhz for the listeners in capital to FM 88.1 Mhz and FM 98
Mhz to four neighbouring districts have increased the radio coverage.
Of those who listen to radio daily in five Dzongkhags, on average 84.4%
listen to the Dzongkha language broadcasts, 26% listen to the English
service, 21% listen to Sharchogpa service and 21.1% listen to the
Lhotshampa service13. In Thimphu alone, 71.3% of the daily listeners listen
to Dzongkha, 44.3% listen to English, 29.2% listen to Sharchogpa and
22.8% listen to Lhotsham programmes.
With regard to news preferences, a majority of the people prefers national
news followed by local and international news. However, 37.7% of the
listeners (from five Dzongkhags) want more of music, 11.2% want more of
agriculture programmes, followed by announcements and health
programmes with 6.7% and 5.6% respectively.14
Television and Movie Halls
BBS television telecasts a one-hour programme every day; from 8pm-9pm
during the weekdays and from 7pm-8pm during the weekends. The first
thirty minutes covers news in Dzongkha and English. Another thirty
minutes covers various programmes either produced by the BBS, acquired
locally or from outside Bhutan. At the moment, BBS television is only
available to Thimphu valley. However, some cable operators relay each
evening's programme to other towns the following day or a few days later.
Since the launching of the television till 30th of November 2000, BBS TV
has telecast 487 programmes15 of which 36.5% (177) are in Dzongkha
language (including some repeated programmes). The programmes include
Dzongkha drama, visits of the royal family to different districts, festivals,
serials (Dorozam, Lam and the turquoise), films (Semkha Thralamlam,
Gasa Lamey Singye, Phama) etc. Also during the same period, about 52 %
(253) of the total entertainment programmes shown are on Bhutan. Since
182
 Mass Media
February 11 2000, BBS TV also introduced a programme 'Bhutan This
Week' (collection of the week's news) that is telecast every Friday in
Dzongkha and English alternatively.
As of now, there are 27 licensed commercial TV cable operators in the
country. It is estimated that there are more than 10,500 subscribers. Today
cable TV is available in district centres of Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Paro,
Samtse, Samdrup Jongkhar, Gelephu, Trashigang, Bumthang, Chukha,
Monggar and Wangduephodrang and in satellite towns like Gomtu and
Gedu. Dish antennas are also available in Pemagatshel, Zhemgang,
Sarpang, Dagana, Tsirang and Haa. Therefore, a majority of the
dzongkhags are connected to television.
Apart from television, movie halls still continue to serve as a popular
source of entertainment to the public.
Types of movies shown in different halls in 1999
Sl.No
Cinema Hall
Nos. of movies screened
Hindi
English
Nepali
1
Thimphu (Lugar)
83
15
5
2
Phuntsholing (Norgay)
54
72
3
3
Phuntsholing (MIG)
108
4
Gelephu (Losel)
48
24
2
Source: Interim data collected for a study on Mass Media in Bhutan
for Bhutan Studies, January 2000
by The Centre
This data clearly show that Hindi films make up 80.5 % of a total number
of 103 films shown in Lugar Theatre in Thimphu. Similarly, 64.8 % of the
74 films shown in Losel cinema hall in Gelephu are Hindi films during the
same year. Conversely, all the films shown in the MIG cinema hall in
Phuentsholing are Hindi. Norgay Hall in Phuentsholing during the same
period showed 55.8% of English movies. Hindi Movies are extremely
popular in Bhutan and 80% of cassettes available for rent in video libraries
in the country are also Hindi movies.
183
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
Section III: Impact of Media
As media audiences have different individual backgrounds, intelligence,
interests and attitudes, these invariably influence their perceptions and
interpretations about the incoming message and, therefore, the impact
varies. Although its specific impact in villages and Thimphu will be
discussed separately, in general, the media has a tremendous impact in
sustaining and weakening, if not eroding, the fabric of social life.
It has enabled people to have access to different sources of information and
entertainment. It has also facilitated the people to see different peoples of
the world (especially prominent personalities), their diverse cultures and
customs, religion, and their way of life, thus, creating better ideas and
perceptions about the world. The media has also helped to document
endangered species, vanishing cultural heritage and life styles and activities
of the past.
At the same time it has also influenced people to accept global culture and
values. This has led to the undermining of indigenous culture and practices.
The excessive advertisement that is now available on television more than
on videos leads to changes in dress style and to new consumption demands
particularly among youth, which constitutes about 57%16 of the total
population. This is already visible through the display of more modern
consumer goods in the market. Besides, violence portrayed on television
encourages violence. Scenes of nudity and sexuality, implied or other wise,
undermine the sanctity of family values and society at large.
Consumption and Impact Among Some Residents of Thimphu
Out of the total respondents, 45% are female and 55% are male. They
comprise of students, government employees, housewives, military
personnel and businessmen between the ages of 15 to 60 years. Among all
the respondents, 4% do not possess television but have access to it through
friends and neighbours. 39% bought a television set after the introduction
of television. 23% do not listen to radio because they feel that television is
more informative. 90% of informants buy Kuensel weekly and the rest only
occasionally or on alternative weeks. 57% read other newspapers like
Times of India, Telegraphs, Economic Times and The Asian Age.
184
 Mass Media
Although television viewing hours are directly dependent upon the nature
and type of programme, about 38% of viewers watch between 3 to 4 hours
a day, 18% watch between 5 to 6 hours a day and about 16% watch
between 1 to 2 hours a day. In terms of channel preferences, females mostly
watch MTV, followed by Zee TV, B4U, Star Movie and Star World.
Similarly, male viewers mostly watch the National Geographic followed by
BBC, Star Sports, ESPN, CNN and HBO. Children mostly watch Cartoon
Network followed by Kermit and Star Sports. However, almost all of them
watch BBS television when it is telecast.
Among those who listen to BBS radio, 50% listen in the evening, 13% in
the morning and 18% both in the morning and evening. 76% of them listen
to the English service, 58% to the Dzongkha service, 18% to the
Sharchogpa service and about 7% to the Lhotsham service. A majority of
them listen to news followed by music, environment, education, health,
zakar and religion and namthar programmes. Their listening hours vary
from 10 minutes to 7 hours. Amongst listeners, 93% listen to BBS radio,
45% BBC, 20% Voice of America, 18% All India Radio and 5% Radio
Nepal.
Of those who buy Kuensel (weekly and occasionally), 92% buy the English
edition, 16% buy the Dzongkha edition and 1% buy the Nepali edition.
About 58% read home news, 25% read international news and editorials,
and 22% read the viewpoint and advertisement pages. But 23.8% read all
the sections.
Since the respondents clearly indicated that radio and newspaper do not
impact them negatively in any way, the following section particularly looks
at the impact of television among some residents of Thimphu.
Advertisement and Consumerism
Television influences people's life style greatly through its visual impact.
The advertisements on television introduce consumer goods and modern
ideas about life and work. These invariably tempt the consumers to adopt
western lifestyles of conspicuous consumption. For instance, the repeated
advertisements on new cars, new clothes, high-tech cell phones, and latest
185
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
cosmetic and kitchen appliances generate new desire among the consumers.
About 30% of informants reported that they have been influenced by the
advertisements. Incidentally most of them are females. Under its influence,
they have bought different products like frying pans, shampoo, face cream,
clothes, shoes, tooth paste, Bournvita, soap and Coca-Cola to name a few.
They have also bought goods, which are usually accompanied by free gifts.
They identify more with the modern elements on television than older
people do. The most dramatic change is seen in their way of thinking which
are reflected in their approach to clothes, to concepts of love and beauty
and other lifestyle images, which are continuously impressed upon their
minds through television. As the average urban Bhutanese family becomes
wealthier, things that were once luxuries are now becoming a necessity.
Two-wheelers and television sets are good examples. And the choice of
such goods is highly influenced by advertisements.
It is also a fact that advertisements create desires, which cannot be satisfied
by people's current economic position. Crimes and corruption are often
born out of economic desires. While no research has been carried out to
determine this link, incidences of juvenile delinquency reveals some related
evidence.
Restructuring of Human Relationship
"Since the June 2 launch of BBS's television service, the daily routines of
many people in Thimphu-if not their lives-have changed."17 It has
undoubtedly changed their sitting arrangements, meal timings, pattern of
communication and transformed many other similar social activities.
Before the arrival of television, household members often sat together after
meals to tell stories and share their experiences. Now the television has
become their focal point of attention. Some parents have developed a
tendency to spend less time with their children and to delay their household
chores and ignore some family matters in order to see their favourite
programmes on television. Since the introduction of television, meals are
also being served at different hours and sometimes in different locations. It
has also changed their sleeping habits. 50% of the respondents agreed that
it has greatly shifted their sleeping hours to late night (11 to 12 am). Face-
to-face interaction with neighbours and family members is also declining
although a few of them argued that family interaction has increased.
186
 Mass Media
However, at least 35% of them certainly felt that it has decreased their
interaction with their neighbours because they spent their free time
watching television.
Development of children
Children are the most vulnerable section of society and most easily
influenced - desirably or undesirably- by television images. Although
parents in general agreed that it has enabled their children to learn new
languages and improve their speaking, it has created a new kind of
generation where electronic entertainment is taking away their time for
reading and writing. Since they are kept engaged and not bored very
frequently, this does not provide enough time for children to think and be
creative. Now they watch more and play less. 45% of the respondents
reported that their children watch television between 1 to 12 hours a day.
The following excerpts clearly show the impact of television on children.
"My son has several stories to narrate ... 'Appa, goonda (villain) was beaten
up by keta (hero) and then the policemen appeared and took all of them to
jail....' In a minute's time, he runs into the kitchen and comes running back
...He holds a spoon, which he pretends is a microphone, in one hand, and
solicits my attention. With his eyes closed and his chest pushed forward, he
starts reproducing some part of the sentences from the World Wrestling
Federation fights. He has different stories to tell everyday. He has different
actions to demonstrate almost everyday.. They (some high school girls) also
watch MTV and other music channels like MCM and B4U Music.
Whenever they are free, they are most certainly discussing Sharukh Khan,
Madhuri Dixit and a host of other Bollywood stars. I interrupt and ask them
how old Madhuri Dixit is and one of them proudly answers, 'she is thirty-
four'."18
Cultural Influence
Among other forms of media, television plays a vital role in moulding
people's opinion. The more a society is exposed to external forces and
ideas, the more transformation it undergoes. Once an individual or an
institution in the society accepts something new, it profoundly impacts
other cultural values. Since cable television provides programmes for 24
187
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
hours, audiences gradually become powerless and accept the importation of
external cultural productions. This changes people's perception, ideas and
behaviour. Foreign cultural products often influence youth and its
consequence is seen in the way they dress, speak and think. "Indeed, it may
be no exaggeration to say that we are now facing the emergence of two
relatively distinct Bhutan. The difference between them is being defined
along the traditional differential faults of language, religion, environment,
customs, and even dress. But the situation is more complex. First, the new
culture is being created in specific localities, but the fault line between the
two cultures runs through Thimphu and Phuentsholing and into the
heartland of the other Bhutan. Thimphu and Phuentsholing are urban
centres whose population is drawn from all over Bhutan, and the new
culture impacts the members of Bhutan's various sub-cultural groups
throughout country through their members who reside in Thimphu and
Phuentsholing. The ties between the urban and the rural population are still
such that people visit their villages and inevitably, consciously or
unconsciously, take home elements of the new culture created by the
media."19
Although television provides entertainment, it also creates conflict among
its viewers when they only own one television set. Children like to watch
cartoon, housewives like to watch Hindi serials and films, and husbands
like to watch Star sports. The conflict culminates when all favourite
programmes are shown at the same time. Some times, it even provokes
misunderstanding and creates unpleasant atmosphere.
Impact in the Rural Areas
Bhutan is predominantly a rural society where access to modern
telecommunication and media is very limited. The villagers of Tangsibji
and Lobneykha do not have access to any modern mass medium except
radio, which is the most popular among them. However, due to the
language barrier, most of them only listen to BBS radio in the Dzongkha
language let alone listening to other stations.
Since the impact of radio is not as immediate as the audio-visual impact of
television BBS radio repeats the same programmes in different languages in
a day to catch the attention of its audiences. The following section explains
188
 Mass Media
the impact of radio among students, farmers and lay priest according to
their choice of programmes.
189
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
Students
School children constitute about 28% of the respondents from two villages.
Students between grades three and seven listen to BBS radio only in the
Dzongkha language more in the evening than morning because they need to
wakeup early in the morning and start early to reach school on time.
Among the students interviewed between 9 to 17 years 100% listen to news
and songs, 85% listen to education programme and 71% listen to health
programme. The news keeps them informed about the current activities of
the nation and world at large. Being young, they all listen to modern
Bhutanese songs rather than traditional songs for two reasons. First, the
lyrics and tunes are very appealing and captivating because they are mostly
composed around the theme of love. Their tunes, usually borrowed from
Hindi or Tibetan songs are easier to get familarised with. Second, they
prefer modern electronic musical instruments, which are more diverse and
powerful than traditional instruments such as lingm, dramnyen, chiwang
and yangchen. The songs that they learn from radio are usually sung and
danced in school during its annual concert and inter-house song and dance
competitions. They also sing and dance during the annual rituals conducted
at home or at their neighbour place. Through such singing and dancing they
are able to socialise in the community. Traditional songs are not so
appreciated by the young because it takes time to understand and appreciate
the values of traditional songs, unlike modern Bhutanese songs, which are
mostly love songs that appeal them. Apart from music, they also listen to
educational programmes because they discuss the education system and its
values, which are very relevant to them. They like to listen to a replication
of class room teaching programme because a comprehension followed by
its question-answer session usually enable them to learn new lesson and
morals and helps to improve their analytical and listening skills. They also
listen to health programmes because they keep them aware of health and
sanitation and other health issues such as family planning, HIV and AIDS.
Farmers
70% of the respondents are farmers between 20-65 years of age. 100%
listen to news, 85% listen to music, 80% to zakar and farming, 74% to
health and 62% to environment. However, they cannot listen to BBS radio
daily because they are more in the field than at home even during the
weekends.
190
 Mass Media
Moreover, as the BBS transmission closes at 6.30 pm during working days,
people can hardly catch the programme after the work. Therefore, the
frequency of consumption of news and other programmes is also limited.
But whenever they are at home they listen to radio preferably in the
morning between 7-8am and after 5pm. in the evening. The news, amongst
others, keeps them informed about royal visits, development activities and
the current security problems (ULFA & Bodo) in the country. Unlike
students, most of the farmers prefer to listen to traditional songs like boedra
and zhungdra. They transmit religious, social and environmental values, of
which the elder people are very fond. They also listen to zakar because it
enables them to schedule their activities appropriately. It foretells the
appropriateness of an intended journey, business and construction
undertakings, consecration and conduct of religious rites etc. Farmers also
listen to farming programmes, as they inform them about the scientific and
modern method of farming, traditional cropping practice, seasonal crop
diseases and measures to be adopted among others. Besides, they also
provide information about the market price of various crops in different
seasons. This greatly helps the farmers to estimate how much profit they
would earn if they sell their crops outside the village. The radio also makes
farmers aware about the need to preserve and promote the environment.
Lay Priest
12% of the respondents are lay priests who serve religious functions in the
village. All the respondents reported that they listen to news, music, and
zakar. However, 90% listen to religion and namthar, 83% to health and
66% to environment programmes. The impacts of news, music, zakar and
health are the same. But the religious and namthar programmes have
special value to them. For instance, they reinforce the values of compassion
and altruism, the benefit of prayers and rituals and the meaning of
impermanence that are important in making them more human, generous
and humble. Besides, this type of programme also desseminates the merits
and virtues gained by some of the religious practitioners and dos' and don'ts
for human beings. It also addresses the advantage of being born a human
being and the possibility to attain enlightenment in one's lifetime.
191
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
Like the urban experience, rural areas have their own incidences of conflict
arising mainly from choice of programmes. Conflict often arises among
household members when they own a single two-in-one tape recorder.
Often housewives and children love to play modern Bhutanese and Hindi
cassettes while older people love to listen to radio for news and music.
They complain that songs played on the tape recorder often irritate them
and try to turn them off if possible. They succumb most of the time, except
when their favourite boedra and zhungdra are aired. These they listen to
with full satisfaction.
Another incident occurred in Lomnyekha village about a year ago during
their annual Bumdey 20recitation. People gathered in an open ground to see
a video brought by one of the businessmen for public entertainment during
the ceremony. Older people wanted to see a Bhutanese film while younger
ones wanted to see a Bollywood or American production. Eventually they
could not resolve their conflict and older people cut off the electric line.
Conclusion
Due to the difference in distribution and consumption, the impact of media
differs between rural and urban areas. Since villagers are mostly illiterate,
radio is the only medium through which they are being informed, both
about the nation and the world at large. In particular, through radio they
learn about government policies and development activities taking place
around the country. However, despite the availability of many stations via
radio, most Bhutanese only listen to BBS radio due to the language barrier.
Therefore, the variety of news, programmes and entertainment are limited
and hence the impact of media is also limited in the rural areas. Had there
been television instead of radio in the rural area, the impact would have
been very different, because of its visual powers.
However, its impact in urban centres is both positive and negative. It has
enabled urban residents to have access to different sources of news and
entertainment. It has also enabled people to express opinions and
participate in public discourse. The television has further enabled people to
see beyond their traditional borders, peoples and culture of the world and,
therefore, broaden their perceptions and ideas. On the other hand, it has
encouraged adoption of western lifestyles of conspicuous consumption,
192
 Mass Media
erosion of native values and languages and changed their interactions with
family and neighbours. It has also allowed foreign culture to penetrate and
influence traditional cultural practices. Although its impact at the moment
is very marginal, it may increase over the years.
The greatest challenge that Bhutan is facing at the moment is to make a
conscious and informed choice in order to benefit from mass media and
information technology, and at the same time keep its negative forces at
bay. Bhutan also needs to take precautions against the possible emergence
of an information gap and place emphasis on providing relevant media
content. In order for the media to play an effective role in the development
of the nation, it must promote education and awareness, and enhance public
discourse and participation.
Notes
1 BBS Listener Survey: BBS/CSO/DANIDA, May 1998.
2 Village elected headman.
3 Community Leader.
4 RGOB (2000). Development Towards Gross National Happiness, Seventh Round
Table Meeting, 7-9 November, Thimphu: DADM, MOF, p. 67.
5 CBS(2000). Mass Media: Legislation and Policy Issues (Unpublished).
6 See interim data collected for a study on Mass Media in Bhutan by The Centre for
Bhutan Studies, January 2000.
7 RGOB (2000). Development Towards Gross National Happiness. Ibid., p.68.
8 People's representatives to the National Assembly.
9 See Kuensel Reader Survey, Kuensel/CSO/Danida, May 1998.
10 Astrologer reports on the day. It is a custom in Bhutan to consult an appropriate
day with an astrologer before performing any social or religious activity.
11 Hagiography.
12 RGOB (2000). Development Towards Gross National Happiness. Ibid., p.69.
13 BBS Listener Survey. Ibid.
14 Ibid.
15 Data received from BBS library.
16 RGOB (2000). Development Towards Gross National Happiness. Ibid., p. 57.
17 See Kuensel editorial titled "Media momentum" dt. August 14, 1999.
18 See Karma Galay's viewpoint on 'Impact of cable TV-a parent's perspective',
Kuensel dt. 23/9/00.
193
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
19 Kinga, S, Rapten, P and Galay, K (2000). Non-Traditional Security in South
Asia: Information Flow, Society and Culture-Globalisation and Information
Technology in South Asia with Special Reference to Their Impacts on Bhutan,
p., 12.
20 Recitation of 100,000 stanzas of Buddha's teachings consisting of 12 volumes.
Bibliograghy
Herman, Edward S and Mc Chesney, Robert W (1998). The Global Media,
The New Missionaries of Corporate Capitalism, Delhi: Madhyam Books,.
Institute for Integrated Development Studies (1996). Mass Media and
Democratisation-A Country Study on Nepal, edited by Anand Aditya,
Kathmandu: Nepal Lithographing Co. (Pvt.) Ltd.
Johnson, Kirk (2000). Television and Social Change in Rural India, New
Delhi: Sage Publication.
RGOB (2000). Development Towards Gross National Happiness-Seventh
Round Table Meeting, 7-9 November, 2000, Thimphu: Department of Aid
and Debt Management, Ministry of Finance.
194
 Mass Media
Table 1: Weekly Kuensel Supply as of 25.11.00
SI.
No
Dzongkhag!
Place
Distribution of Kuensel by language
Total
English
Dzongkha
Lhotshampa
1
Thimphu
3,457
2
Chukha
1270
263
45
1578
3
Paro
890
175
17
1082
4
Haa
100
60
5
165
5
Wangdue
230
130
10
370
6
Punakha
208
135
0
343
7
Bumthang
200
160
0
360
8
Mongar
190
65
4
259
9
Tashi Yangtsi
11
7
0
18
10
Trashigang
310
150
5
465
11
Samdrup
Jongkhar
280
135
3
418
12
Sarpang
300
100
17
417
13
Tsirang
110
40
20
170
14
Samtsi
250
75
4
329
15
Zhemgang
70
20
0
90
16
Lhuntsi
70
40
2
112
17
Pema Gatsel
40
15
0
55
India   (North
East)
110
1
30
141
Source: Kuensel Corporation, Thimphu, November, 2000
195
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
Table 2: Radio Sch<
Weekdays: Mornin
;dule
5
Language
BST
Content
Dzongkha
0700
Anthem/ Prayers
0710
Advertisement
0720
Zakar
0730
News Brief
0740
Farming (Mon, Tues), Cultural (Wed, Thurs), Teaching
(Fri)
0750
Health (Mon, Tues), Religion (Wed, Thurs),
0800
News
0810
Advertisement
0820
Environment (Mon, Tues),  Women's (Wed, Thurs),
Feature (Fri)
0830
News Brief
0840
Zakar
0850
Youth (Mon, Tues), Namthar (Wed, Thurs), Story &
Jokes (Fri)
0857
Services
English
0900
News
0910
Advertisement
0915
Services
0920
Buddhism Series (Mon, Wed, Fri) - Youth Forum (Tues,
Thurs)
0930
News Brief
0940
Farming the Bhutanese Way (Mon, Wed, Fri) - Zakar
(Tues, Thurs)
0950
Toh Baygye Oye (Mon, Wed, Fri) - Region in the News
(Tues, Thurs)
Lhotsham
1000
News
1010
Advertisement
1015
Services
1020
Environment
1030
News Brief
1040
Health
1050
Agriculture
Sharchogpa
1100
News
1110
Advertisement
1115
Services/Zakar
1120
Religion (Mon, Tues) - Culture (Wed, Thurs) - Namthar
(Fri)
1130
News Brief
1140
Zakar
1150
Agriculture  (Mon,  Tues)  -  Health (Wed,  Thurs)  -
Legshey (Fri)
1200
Transmission Break
Weekdays: Afternoon
Language
BST
Content
English
1400
News
1410
Advertisement
196
 Mass Media
1415
Education Calling Teachers (Mon), Topical
(Tues),
Buddhism Series (Wed), UN Calling Asia
(Thurs), Bhutan This Week (Fri)
1430
Music
Lhotsham
1500
News
1510
Advertisement
1515
Health (Mon), Topical (Tues), Request
(Wed), Local Talents (Thurs), DJ's Choice
(Fri)
1530
Music
Sharchogpa
1600
News
1610
Advertisement
1615
Farming (Mon), Health (Tues), Request
(Web), Cultural (Thurs), Request (Fri)
1635
Listener's Choice (Mon, Tues, Thurs)
Dzongkha
1700
News Brief
1710
Environment (Mon), Youth (Tues), Culture
(Wed), Cultural (Thurs), Namthar (Fri)
1735
Health (Mon), Request (Tues), Farming
(Wed), Religion (Thurs), Bhutan This Week)
(Fri)
1800
News
1810
Advertisement
1815
Music (Mon, Wed, Fri), Request (Tues,
Thurs)
1830
Close Transmission
197
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
Weekends
Language
BST
Content
Dzongkha
1000
Anthem/Prayers
1015
Zakar/Advertisement
1020
Stories & Jokes (Sat), Teaching (Sun)
1035
Request (Sat), Guest of the Week (Sun)
1100
Music
1200
Feature (Sat), Education Calling Teachers
(Sun)
1220
Request
1300
News
1310
Advertisement
1315
Request/UN Programme
Sharchogpa
1400
News
1410
Advertisement
1415
Short Stories & Jokes (Sat), Request (Sun)
1435
Listener's Choice (Sat)
Lhotsham
1500
News
1510
Advertisement
1515
Request (Sat, Sun)
English
1600
News
1610
Advertisement
1615
Thimphu Top Ten (Sat), Request (Sun)
1700
Close Transmission
Source: Bhutan Broadcasting Service, Thimphu, December
2000
198

Cite

Citation Scheme:

        

Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics

Share

Embed

Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                        
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            src="{[{embed.src}]}"
                            data-item="{[{embed.item}]}"
                            data-collection="{[{embed.collection}]}"
                            data-metadata="{[{embed.showMetadata}]}"
                            data-width="{[{embed.width}]}"
                            async >
                            </script>
                            </div>
                        
                    
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:
http://iiif.library.ubc.ca/presentation/cdm.dhimjournal.1-0365161/manifest

Comment

Related Items