GNH and Media in Bhutan
Four criteria (incl. GNH values) and six indicators will be required to be met
Media that make its policies and code of ethics public, issue corrigenda for mistakes, and not carry “unhealthy” advertisements are among six indicators that could guide government agencies in selecting media for their advertisements.
These indicators, which were absent in the previous draft, are under the “promote understanding of GNH values,” one of four criteria the government shall consider while selecting the media to place advertisements in, the revised draft government advertisement guidelines states.
The revised draft was shared with media houses for feedback and comments yesterday.
“Accepting that weighing the “GNH contribution” of a media will be a complex task,” the information and communications ministry suggested these indicators that might show the commitment of news media and media companies.
Advertisements, the draft defined as “the dissemination of all forms of information, including tender notifications, public announcements, and other government messages.”
“While this may not be a complete strategy, it will be a guide for government agencies that advertise in the Bhutanese media,” the draft guidelines stated. “The premise here is that, just as the media must hold government and national institutions accountable, media themselves must be accountable to society.”
Other ways through which the media can express their commitment to society is to carry healthy content, and have written codes of conduct for their journalists/employees.
Healthy content stated the draft could be issues related to the four pillars and nine domains of GNH. Evaluation of the content however needs to be discussed in more detail, the draft stated.
Information and communications secretary Dasho Kinley Dorji suggested looking at “bad” or “unhealthy” content in the media when it comes to content.
Following a letter from the cabinet secretariat, the media, through the Journalists Association of Bhutan, had recently submitted a proposal to the government to allocate 50 percent of the advertisement based on content.
Quality of content, writing skills, ethics, accuracy and objectivity, depth and variety of local content, looks, packaging, nationwide coverage were suggested as some of the parameters to judge the content.
Reach of the media to the audience that the advertisement seeks to inform, media that publish their advertisement rates and invest in the promotion of Dzongkha are the other criteria to select the media for advertisements.
Reach does not only mean in terms of geographic reach, but reaching the targeted audience, the secretary explained.
Investing in the promotion of the national language, however, contradicts the proposal private newspapers recently submitted to the government.
They had proposed, through JAB, to discontinue publishing Dzongkha editions of their English language papers, because the mandatory publication of the Dzongkha edition had become a “huge financial burden”, and impacted the sustainability of private media houses.
The issue of advertisement guidelines, Dzongkha papers and JAB were discussed yesterday in a meeting among ministry officials, media owners, CEOs, editors and JAB’s steering committee members.
The revised draft also states specifically that government agencies shall make a public announcement of any decision to withdraw or withhold advertisements, providing the justifications for the decision.
It also defines the roles and responsibilities of media officers, and has included social media in media’s definition.
The government advertising guideline is framed to ensure government officials understand the culture of advertising, public funds are utilised to convey government messages to the people, and that government advertisements are not intended in any way to be a form of financial subsidy to any particular media.
Media houses will meet ministry officials on March 5 with feedbacks and comments on the draft advertisement guidelines.