BBS seeks media tribunal’s intervention

The national broadcaster was fined by BICMA after airing a story on Khyentse Rinpoche’s film Hema Hema, which is currently barred

Media: The Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) will not accept the allegations and penalties imposed by the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) for broadcasting a story on Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait, a film by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche.

BICMA imposed penalties of Nu 224,625 after BBS aired the story on December 21, last year, stating that the film is barred from screening in the country.

On December 22, BICMA issued a letter to the management of BBS stating three reasons for the penalties being imposed. BICMA directed BBS to settle the penalties imposed on or before January 19 and if they fail, BICMA would take further actions.

The first point was that BBS’s headline misinformed and instigated the general public by providing incorrect information. The second point was that the story was one-sided without presenting the views of BICMA. The last point was that BBS broadcasted clippings of the film, which was not certified by BICMA.

BICMA then summoned BBS’s managing director to submit an explanation on December 23, followed by a warning that if failed to do so, it would lead to appropriate actions as per the provisions of the BICM Act.

BICMA imposed a fine of Nu 44,875 for failure to abide by their directive, Nu 134,875 for violating section 111 (1) of the Act, and Nu 44,875 for misinforming and instigating the public.

Section 111 (1) of the Act states that no film intended for public exhibition would be advertised to the public through any medium before the grant of a certificate by the authority.

On December 23, BICMA issued a clarification letter to media houses stating the film was not barred from screening but was being reviewed by the Department of Culture (DoC) of the home and cultural affairs.

On December 30, BBS submitted their response to BICMA, which the authority did not accept.

BBS managing director Tshering Wangchuk, said the broadcaster would not accept these allegations nor will it pay the penalties but instead seek justice from the Bhutan Information Communication and Media Appellate Tribunal.

“We didn’t misinform or instigate the general public through the headline because it is a matter of perspective and BICMA indeed barred the movie from screening. We tried to contact BICMA officials for two days but they failed to respond,” Tshering Wangchuk said. “With regard to the third accusation, we only broadcasted 10 seconds of clippings from the promotional video for the story and not the film in its entirety.”

Tshering Wangchuk said that for BBS it’s only news and it doesn’t concern the broadcaster if the film is allowed to be screened in the country or not.

“If we accept the allegations and pay the penalties, we would set a wrong precedence. Everyday, BBS broadcasts at least 13 stories. We can’t be summoned for every story we broadcast,” Tshering Wangchuk said. “We haven’t been paid by the film’s crew nor do we endorse that people should go watch the film. For us, it’s similar to any other news. We are not satisfied by BICMA’s explanation because BICMA cannot be both complainant and the jury. There is a conflict of interest.”

BICMA’s director general, Chencho Dorj, chose not to comment on the issue.

The Bhutan Information Communication and Media Appellate Tribunal’s secretariat said that they address cases concerning disagreements with BICMA’s decisions. However, it was pointed out that the tribunal can’t comment until BBS registers their case with them.

The media tribunal, which was formed in 2006, comprises of three members.

This is Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche’s fourth feature film, which was schedule to be screened in the country on December 19, last year.

On January 10, the producer of the movie received a letter from BICMA stating that the film cannot be screened in the country due to the various religious masks used by the characters in the film, which is not in keeping with the country’s tradition and culture.

The National Films Review Board (NFRB) submitted the film for further review to DoC since the characters of the film used various religious masks (lhatshog zhebab).

NFRB reviewed the film on December 10, last year and referred it for further review to DoC the next day. NFRB is an independent board instituted by BICMA with members from different stakeholders.

Thinley Zangmo

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