Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority’s (BICMA) initiative to “standardise” and to make the number of television channels uniform throughout the country is appreciable. What is more important, though, is our focus on the contents. Rather the lack of it. Any number of channels anywhere at anytime is by far less significant than the quality of programmes we offer our viewers.

BICMA has now approved a total of 56 television channels for distribution in the country. What this means is that the people throughout our country, at least those who don’t use satellite dish, will have access to only these many television channels.  In this sense, perhaps less is good. Besides BBS I and II, what other Bhutanese programmes do we offer our people?

A more serious national concern should be about distribution and creation of contents. Encouraging more Bhutanese programmes is critically important today what with our mandate to promote Dzongkha as our national language and the special emphasis we give to promotion of our national identity.

Coming down to the facts, we have today our children speaking almost flawless Hindi than Dzongkha even as Dzongkha is one of the main languages of instruction in school through to college. We ought to ask why this is so. Our children are exposed to more foreign contents than Bhutanese. Our children are also more familiar with contents that are pitiably poor in taste.

And then we talk about promotion of our national language.

Research shows that if a society is fed with high quality programmes, demand develops for even better quality programmes. Sir David Attenborough’s natural science programmes have educated half the world’s population for decades. Even children love the programmes, because they are not just educative but also highly entertaining. There is a lesson here. Perhaps we missed it because we didn’t want to see it.

Investment. Let’s talk about it. There is a serious need to invest in creation of local programmes that are not just educative. Programmes have to be entertaining too. This whole affair will be expensive, of course. But the benefit far outweighs the cost, because we are talking also about the soul of the nation.

If the state cannot invest in content creation, so many years after television was legalised in the country, maybe private participation should be encouraged. Healthy competition is necessary. Media growth means growth in education.

We look at BICMA’s this initiative as the first real step towards bringing in real change. More surveys must follow. What is so fundamentally important is that development of high quality local contents has to be at the core of the focus.