For the allegations of defamation, non-payment and copyright issues 

Thinley Namgay

The government has noted issues related to reality shows, including allegations of defamation, non-payment of prizes, and copyright infringement, among others.

Over the past few years, a few cases of non-payment of promised prizes have been reported in the courts. All shows are designed in such a way that contestants spend huge amounts of money to win the competition.

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment (MoICE) minister, Namgyal Dorji, said there are also risks of exploiting contestants in the shows as voting is involved.  

Lyonpo Namgyal Dorji said that the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) is the regulatory authority that grants licenses to host reality shows based on the Information, Communications, and Media (ICM) Act of Bhutan 2018.

He said that if the problem arising from a reality show is criminal in nature, the courts will settle it. “First, the reality show organiser has to get a license from BICMA. One of the conditions of the reality shows is that they should not entertain bulk voting and other exploitative means.” 

“All these measures are to be put in place. If these measures are not put in place, there is a risk of exploitative trends. In the end, it is an individual choice,” the minister said. 

He added that the issues should be addressed by the contractual agreement between the contestants and show organisers.

Bulk voting, however, is the biggest problem as those with connections and money, and not talent could win shows. 

BICMA’s stand

BICMA officials said  that the office does not issue licenses,  but issue  permits for organising reality shows on social media. As of today, about 20 online (social media) reality show permits have been issued, with some shows running for subsequent seasons.

BICMA issues permits purely based on the content of the show, such as language and use of the national dress. The authority ensures that there is a valid trade license for organising such shows at the time of application, ensuring required taxes are paid.

BICMA officials pointed out that many issues could arise in reality shows, such as defamation, non-payment of prizes, copyright issues, and exploitation of labor, including contestants. “Many of these issues are taken care of by the contractual agreement between organisers and contestants. It is also under the purview of different agencies, with some even criminal in nature.” 

What organisers say

Reality show organisers are convinced that the quality of shows has improved with many venturing into it to improve it further. However, the growing number of shows has further tightened the already meager market, according to organisers.

One organiser said that some contestants are competing in different shows. “It portrays that organisers are finding it difficult to select quality contestants nowadays.”

Organisers also said that it is challenging to find sponsors amid the growing number of reality shows. “Many can’t afford to present their shows via the national television, as it is expensive. That is why social media has become a good platform.”

Meanwhile, people say that the  reality shows, especially singing competitions, have become like grocery shops with every shop selling the same items. Many say while it promotes folk songs, there is a lack of creativity. 

“It is driven by money,” said one. For contestants, getting financial support is the main challenge. Participants said that funding will become more challenging if the number of shows continues to grow.