Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority’s (BICMA) attorney insisted that Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation (BBSC) violated the law and that it should be penalised.

The media regulator claimed that BBS failed to pay the fines and penalties it imposed for airing a story on the movie Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait on December 21 last year. It is also alleged that BBS broadcast clippings of the film that was not certified by BICMA, disseminating incorrect information and for misinforming and misleading the public.

BICMA imposed on BBS a fine of Nu 224,625 for failing to abide by its directives to pay penalties and for misinforming and instigating the public by providing incorrect information and broadcasting a one-sided story.

BBS refused to pay the fines stating it shall seek the intervention of an independent authority for arbitration if the issue is not resolved.

The corporation’s legal officer had requested the court to dismiss the case as there is no legal standing for BICMA to take BBSC to court.

BICMA’s attorney, Chencho Wangmo, maintained that the corporation had neither responded nor presented itself before the authority despite a summons order being issued. Further, it continued to misinform the public by broadcasting the news on its radio and uploading the news to its website.

The attorney alleged that BBSC responded only after issuing a show cause notice.  Instead of clarifying the issue, the corporation challenged the accusation that it had misled the public by misinforming them.

“BBSC is media organisation and even though it is a national broadcaster, it can’t be treated separately from other media houses,” the attorney said.

BBS had requested the court to issue an order to BICMA to refrain from unnecessarily impeding BBS from carrying out its duty saying that BICMA is being biased by imposing fines only on BBS when other media houses, particularly newspapers, also covered the film extensively.

The corporation holds the view that BICMA, by being both the complainant and arbitrator, violates the principle of natural justice, as no man can be a judge in his own cause.

Chencho Wangmo refuted the charges of conflict of interest stating that the authority is acting for the sake of the country’s interest and implementing section 27 (3) of the BICMA Act 2006 and the code of ethics for journalists.

“The fines imposed go to the national coffer and BICMA doesn’t derive any financial benefits,” said Chencho Wangmo.

The authority said that BBSC broadcast a one-sided story with detailed quotes from the producer of the movie without BICMA’s voice alongside. The reporter had not consulted BICMA officials, including the director general, who had been in office on both the days the BBSC reporter claimed she tried to contact the authority’s office.

While the film was under review, BICMA said that BBSC’s report indicated that the review was complete and, so, misinformed the public.

Showing of the movie clips also violated the agreement between the authority and BBSC on September 2, 2016, that it would not broadcast any uncertified film, the legal officer said.

BICMA also claimed that using clips from the movie is advertising it as per the rules of content.

BICMA had issued the directive and the show cause notice to BBSC as per section 45 (7) of the BICMA Act 2006.

The authority asked the court to make BBSC pay the fines and compensation for tarnishing the reputation of the organisation and its officials.

BBS refuted all the charges made by BICMA and will submit its rebuttal on April 13.

Tshering Palden