Media: An independent radio and TV station for Parliament are in the pipeline.

The radio station is likely to be started in the near future as the UNDP (United Nation Development Programme) has already committed to fund its establishment. Setting up the TV station, however, will take time as funds have to be mobilised.

The National Assembly (NA) has conducted a feasibility study to establish the TV and radio stations at the Parliament building.

Since these undertakings entail huge resources, as an interim measure, an alternative radio start-up study was also carried out to immediately start a radio station with the existing infrastructure in the NA building. It is estimated that Nu 23 million would be required to establish the radio station alone.

Although the radio station couldn’t be started in the financial year 2015-16, the UNDP has committed to source the fund for the same in the next fiscal year.

Deputy Speaker Chimi Dorji said a TV station and a radio for Parliament would be able to provide a dedicated service to the people. “Now Parliament depends on BBS for dissemination of information to the constituents and does not get enough space,” he said.

The deputy speaker said that the Parliament TV and radio would broadcast all kinds of news and announcements promptly. “This will also help Parliament have a direct contact with the constituents,” he said.

If the plan materialises, Chimi Dorji said people will be trained to run the TV and radio. “We will also use people with journalistic skills,” he said.

Most of the electorates are in remote villages where there is no access to either newspapers or television. MPs feel that an independent Parliament TV and radio broadcasting service are crucial to ensure that constituents are kept informed of discourses and dialogues taking place in the Parliament hall.

Samtse’s National Council MP Sangay Khandu said parliament should use technologies available to reach out to the people in every corner of the country. “The Speaker and the NC Chairperson are trying their best to make the people informed about its activities and this initiative and the virtual zomdu is just part of that effort,” he said.

He said that it will depend on how the people would receive the channels. “If we have a Parliament TV or a radio station people will have the option to switch on to it,” he said.

“It would be very useful for the people to understand parliamentary affairs,” he said.

However, Sangay Khandu added that having a separate channel does not mean that Parliament would not use BBS at all. “We will use BBS whenever required,” he said.

He added that parliamentary affairs do not receive adequate air time for important discussions and dissemination of information. Since BBS is a corporate body, he said it belongs to all sections of the society and that it has to divide air time among all matters.

“It would be an advantage for Parliament to have its won channel,” he said.

Phuentsholing MP Rinzin Dorji said although it would be difficult to have its own TV station he was optimistic that the radio station would be a reality. “The TV and radio channels will be fully dedicated for the promotion of democracy in the country,” he said.

Rinzin Dorji said that parliamentary affairs have not had enough air time. He also said that the radio would reach wherever TV would not.

He also said that Parliament would be able to cut expenditures incurred on advertisements and announcements. He said advertising on BBS is expensive as it is a corporation.

According to officials, MPs represent their constituents and that it is imperative that people know how members are representing them, their issues, and hold them accountable.

According to the recently launched annual report of the National Assembly, democracy has been making steadfast progress and taking deeper roots. It continues to exude great promise to meet the hopes and aspirations of the people.

“As an important parliamentary institution, the National Assembly is an embodiment of Bhutan’s democratic governance,” states the report. It commits to strengthening democratic culture and values that befit and manifest our nation’s development philosophy of GNH.

MB Subba