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Bhutan: On the Road to Public Broadcasting

In Bhutan the monarchy may take steps to change the state broadcaster into a public broadcaster. DW-AKADEMIE Director Gerda Meuer was invited to speak at a two-day conference held in the Bhutan capital, Thimphu.

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Gerda Meuer, DW-AKADEMIE Director

“The Challenges of Public Service Broadcasting” was the title of the media conference organized in November by the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy and the Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS), the country’s sole television broadcaster. Politicians, media representatives and academics – the majority from Bhutan itself – came to Thimphu to discuss the challenges. Also invited were experts from Thailand, the Philippines and Ireland, and Gerda Meuer, Director of DW-AKADEMIE, from Germany.

12.2010 DW-AKADEMIE Medienentwicklung Asien Bhutan Medien-Konferenz 01

Meuer looked back at 60 years of German public broadcasting. “Following World War II the Allies wanted to create a media system in Germany that was decentralized, politically and economically independent, and that represented all layers of society. They wanted an open dialogue for everyone,” she said.

She explained the structure of the German public broadcasting system and described the functions of the various broadcasting boards. But, she warned, “One cannot simply copy the models of other countries and transfer them to one’s own. The goal is to find a system that best suits one’s own country.”

With its strategic importance, Bhutan is the size of Switzerland and lies between China and India. 800,000 inhabitants live in the kingdom which the monarch is aiming to restructure into a democracy – in harmony with a unique political philosophy. Traditionally, the country’s leader is committed to the “Gross National Happiness”, where each political decision has to be in line with the individual’s and society’s well-being. This is quite different to the Western idea of growth.

Accordingly, the media workshop in Thimphu developed recommendations which would make it possible to transform the Bhutanese state broadcaster into a public broadcaster. “Now our primary objective is to create our own understanding of public service broadcasting,” said Pema Choden, BBS Director. “At the same time we need to find our own role within the new political context.”


DW-AKADEMIE has been active in Bhutan since 2000, primarily conducting coaching and training workshops for journalists and station managers.

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