After 21 sitting members of the National Council (NC) voted in favour yesterday, the information, communications and media (ICM) bill 2017 will now be tabled in the joint session of the Parliament.

The bill will repeal the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) Act 2006 and has new provisions to realign and ensure clearer responsibilities of the implementing and regulatory bodies.

The National Assembly after making necessary changes forwarded the bill to NC.

NC’s good governance committee reviewed the bill and made 13 consultations excluding meetings with the individuals from the relevant sectors.

The committee’s chairperson and Trongsa MP, Tharchen, said that of the other changes to the National Assembly’s recommendations, the good governance committee proposed six major changes to the bill.

He said the bill would bring clarity to the responsibilities of various stakeholders including the information and communications ministry and Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA).

“We have also categorised separate functions of the BICMA, NFC and the media council,” he said. “As of now it has been all clubbed together under BICMA.”

He said that both the film fraternity and the media sectors are not being monitored, regulated and supported by the government and the authority.

“With the establishment of the two institutions, we feel that both the sectors would get adequate attention because they will have their representations on the boards,” Tharchen said.

He said the bill clearly states the composition of the board members of BICMA, the National Film Commission and Media Council with six members.

The NC also removed the chapter on the Bhutan Information and Communication and media appellate tribunal.

The House proposed a new chapter on licensing places of entertainment. Under the new chapter, all thromdes and dzongkhags have to establish entertainment-licensing committees to review and recommend the applications for entertainment establishment centres in dzongkhag or thromdes.

The economic affairs ministry will be the licensing authority. The licenses will be renewed annually.

The NC also deleted the provisions on the establishment of ad hoc media and information and communication technology (ICT) advisory bodies.

Section 9 of the Bill endorsed by the National Assembly states, “The minister may constitute ad-hoc ICT and media advisory bodies to advise the ministry on all aspects of ICT and media sector or delegate specific responsibilities as necessary upon approval of the Cabinet.”

Members said that the ministry, as a parent organization of ICT and media, is expected to have expertise in ICT and media.

Besides increasing the tenure of BICMA board members from three to five years, the National Council inserted a new section that mandates BICMA to conduct periodic circulation audit of the print media firms.

Section 17 of the Bill states that the ministry may, on approval or endorsement by the Cabinet, take over the control and management of any ICT or media facility or services including applications services and/or content applications services or suspend its operation, or entrust any agency of the government to manage it, during an emergency under which the sovereignty, security, or territorial integrity of the country is threatened, or a natural or man-made disaster which causes, or threatens to cause loss of life or destruction to property.

Tshering Palden