Regulating bodies must either be strengthened or killed so that new and strong ones can do their job. That demands clear and honest reform.
The problems seem to stem from duplication and mislaying of responsibilities. Entertainment centres in Bhutan like drayang, discotheque and karaoke need better regulation and monitoring.
Even as Bhutan Infocomm and Media Authority (BICMA) is under the purview of Ministry of Information and Communications (MOIC), it’s responsibilities and mandate is spread all over the places. It is no wonder therefore that BICMA has not been able to do much in the many years of its existence.
For example, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) issue licences to the businesses. When it comes to entertainment businesses, however, it is BICMA that must ensure that laws, rules and regulations are respected.
If it is all about instituting an entertainment licensing committee, why can’t MoEA institute one of its own that can oversee or monitor compliance issues without transferring the burden to BICMA that is not only understaffed but is increasingly finding itself inefficient and irrelevant?
Telecommunications issues should be with Bhutan Telecom and information processing and dissemination with MOIC, and licensing with MoEA. An entertainment licensing committee with members from all these entities should form a regulating agency that BICMA is not today. Only then will there be no issue related to all these mother entities.
Let’s count a few flaws, not all. Trongsa dzongkhag court has sentenced a drayang owner in Trongsa town to a year and six months in prison for employing a minor as a dancer in the drayang. There was also an issue, in the past, of a drayang owner sexually molesting his underage employee.
According to the Bhutan Information, Communications and Media Act, ELC, led by BICMA shall periodically carry out monitoring and compliance of such established places of entertainment within their jurisdiction. BICMA is too small and too weak to each out.
Regulations are obscure at best. The licensee shall, for instance, ensure that employees are protected from sexual abuses during the course of employment. What guarantee is there when employers house the employees in arrangements like hostels? Some say that employers demand special favours—who knows of what kind—from the employees. For many that’s only how they land a job.
But there is a fundamental problem that is the source of rot. But it is not intractable. If duplications are eliminated—which could even mean the very survival of BICMA—a lot can be achieved. For example, why can’t children enter an amusement arcade but without any question enter karaoke where all manner of sleazy affairs and unhealthy habits for children are being flaunted? Why do discotheques and drayang continue to admit children?
It is not hard to refine the rules and regulations. Ministries and agencies involved are failing the society.