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It’s back to the drawing board as far as private media is concerned, with the keyword being ‘circulation’. The argument put forth as per the directive of the MoIC is that the government, keeping in mind the circulation figures, will accord advertisements. The one source of revenue the struggling media houses have to do with and cannot do without.
It is also, in a sense, a sorry state of affairs. The public at large will put up with nothing but a vibrant and independent media scenario where the pursuit of truth becomes the paramount priority to everything else. Well, if morals and principles and the like can put in the food on the table, then many media houses will argue that they are perfectly fine with the MoIC’s decision to gauge a paper by its circulation.
Unfortunately, the reality on the ground is that media houses are desperately trying to make ends meet while trying to maintain a semblance of independence in the editorial room and content in the pages of their papers. Let us not forget that the media, often referred to as the fourth estate and the fourth arm of democracy by the powers that be, is being discourage ad hoc- with threats coming in the guise of circulation audits and the like.
Which media house, in their own self-interest and credibility, will not want to increase and expand circulation, visibility and reach? The answer is simple– none. But time is of the essence and really, how long has it been since private media has flourished as a viable sector in Bhutan today? Barely four years is the answer. Yet the pressure is intense and unfortunately, it weighs heavy with every media house sans the odd one. And the reasons are simple– media houses require time to make their own mark and be able to stand up and compete with media houses that have had the luxury of time and generous government subsidies to establish their foothold in the popular consciousness.
To put it bluntly, every media house could do with that kind of leeway. For the simple reason that in the long run, a viable and strong media presence in the kingdom will do far more good than harm. And isn’t everything that is good about anything built on visions and foundations that have been shaky at first but reliable and dependent at last?
That question must be asked and pondered before rash and preemptive measures are taken. A premature death can never quite put the life in a stillborn baby. Ask mothers who have had to suffer such trauma. It’s a tragedy and nor was Thimphu built in a day - or for that matter, anything of value.