Chhimi Dema

While people look for various means to stay engaged and entertained during the lockdown, much of what was broadcast on television was repetitive and lacked variety, viewers said.

Currently, there are 56 TV channels in the country. The only local content available is on Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) and some local operators’ channels broadcasting school concerts and music videos.

Tshering Dema, 50, said that most of the content shown on TV was shows from India or other countries.

“The only entertainment available for elder viewers was the movies on BBS,” Tshering Dema said. The younger generation has their phones for entertainment.

Dechen, 25 from Punakha, said that there was a lack of diversity and significantly less local channels.

“Local channels could put effort to broadcast contents relevant to their area of reach,” Dechen said.

To acquire television channels and distribute the signal to all the local cable operators in the country a Multi-Service Operator (MSO) called NetCom Bhutan Ltd was established in November last year.

Chief Executive Officer Khampa from NetCom Bhutan Ltd said that the MSO was exploring ways to increase the number of channels and develop various service packages for the subscribers.

Khampa said: “To promote local content there was a need for more local broadcasters.”

The only broadcaster in the country is BBS which means that MSO will have to buy more foreign TV channels to diversify TV content.

Bhutan is a negligible market for foreign broadcasters, Khampa said. The payment to the foreign broadcaster increases as more channels are subscribed which increases the subscription fees paid by the viewers as well, he added.

There are 93 local operators in the country today.  Given the small cable TV market, bringing educational and other channels will come at a huge cost.

Khampa said, “Although the cost will trickle down to the subscribers, it won’t be fair to the subscribers to pay huge TV bills to watch foreign content.”

Khampa said that MSO and the local cable operators could introduce the à la carte system where subscribers will only pay for the channels they subscribe once all the cable TV systems are digitalised in the country.