… no bulk voting from this year

Phub Dem 

Bhutan Broadcasting Services (BBS) issued a new term of reference for reality shows starting this year due to increasing proposals for reality shows and issues surrounding exploiting the participants and failing to disclose the voting amount.

According to an expression of interest (EOI) BBS shared, there are six new applicants wanting to host their shows on BBS. There are already six organisers hosting shows.

It stated that the new applicants are asking BBS management to allow them to host their shows on BBS. “The applicants proposed that the same six reality show organisers should not be allowed to host shows every year, reasoning that as a public service broadcaster, BBS should give a fair opportunity to all Bhutanese who are interested.”

To provide fair and equal opportunity, BBS invited EOI from interested individuals and firms willing to organise reality shows.

The open competition, according to BBS, aims to ensure transparency and avoid exploitation of participants, promote Bhutanese culture and tradition, provide a platform for budding Bhutanese performing artists, and encourage originality, innovation, and creativity.

Under the new term of reference, only SMS votes from the public will be used to decide the winner and bulk voting will not be allowed from this year.

Participants will not be allowed to approach individuals physically or personally for votes but participants may ask for votes when they are on the show.

According to the ToR, BBS will select five shows every year. Each show will last nine weeks on average with two episodes every week on Saturday and Sunday. Each episode will have three hours.

Besides, the prizes have to be declared publicly at the beginning of the show and the vote count for every contestant has to be announced live publicly whenever necessary until the final winner is announced.


Issues surrounding the reality shows

In the past, reality shows selected the winners by votes through a short message service (SMS). However, since 2018, reality show organisers started using banking applications such as mBoB, mPay and other apps in addition to the SMS votes to decide the winners.

It was found out that the contestants were asked to deposit money they received through the banking apps into the accounts of the show organisers.

According to sources, the amount decides who remains in the competition, ultimately deciding the winner. However, the amounts are not disclosed to the participants, BBS, or the public.

BBS stated that although the payment is called a voting system, votes are bought but not cast. “Some of the contestants had to resort to selling property, borrowing money and reportedly other means to stay in the contest.”

Beginning this year, such practice will be disallowed as it is against the principle of a talent competition and also degrades the image and reputation of the show.


Revenue generation

While telecom operators and banks keep a 20 percent share of the total votes, 80 percent goes to the organisers.

The show organiser will be given eight minutes of advertisement airtime every hour. Show organisers can seek sponsors for their shows.

The ToR stated that BBS will provide necessary professional support including the studio, airtime, equipment and personnel.

BBS will charge Nu 47,000 per episode if the show is hosted at a BBS studio and Nu 30,000 per episode if it is conducted outside BBS.

It stated that BBS was paid 20 percent of the SMS votes initially. In 2010, BBS earned Nu 1.9 million from just one show, the Druk Star and it fetched Nu 5.3 million from Bhutan Star and Druk Super Star in 2011.

However, the earnings were slashed by more than half when it was replaced with a fixed rate per episode.

Today, there are six reality shows; Druk Super Star, Druk Gi Kalapingka, The Voice of Bhutan, Drinchen Phami Sungkey, Druk Gi Tsepoem and Palden Drukpa.

The screening of the reality show first began in 2008 on Bhutan Broadcasting Services (BBS). Since then, the shows are most popular among rural populations and became a platform for budding Bhutanese singers and artists.

Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority has given 21 television reality show permits from 2012 to October last year.