Bhutan will soon have 11 newspapers. The latest entrant in the market “The Bhutanese” will be launched on February 21.
The paper’s CEO and owner, Tenzin Lamsang, a journalist by profession, says they are aware of the competition and the market scenario.
“We know the risk we are taking. We know what the returns will be. Yes, we know the market situation. We are aware but we know we can do it successfully by focusing on quality.”
He may well be. There are already 10 newspapers and given the Kingdom’s population size and the limited advertisement money, financial sustainability is a big concern.
The Ministry of Information and Communications says it will go on approving as many applications as long they fulfill the criteria under the Bhutan Information, Communications and Media Act.
The Secretary of the Information and Communications Ministry, Dasho Kinley Dorji, says they cannot stop any good proposal from entering the market.
“The Bhutan Information, Communications and Media Act allows people who meet the criteria to start media (houses). What is happening is, it is bit scrambled, that is why the ministry has come up with guidelines.”
90 percent of the advertisement revenue comes from the government. How that money should be shared is being debated.
Many in the Bhutanese media argue that the money should not be given on rotation among the existing media houses or depending on their business contacts. It should be decided by the reach and the readership.
“The government should have a very good advertisement policy, not divide it among the newspapers on rotation basis,” said Mindu Dorji, an editor with Bhutan Observer.
Others however do not agree. They argue that such a move will result in the demise of some of the newspapers. And that it is not fair to ask new newspapers to compete with older, better established ones.
For now, all the media houses are struggling. Some are venturing out into other businesses to survive.
Bharat Subba, an employee with Bhutan Today, said “it is difficult to sustain ourselves on the add money alone. We are trying to diversify our businesses.”
“Today, there are ten of us and all of us are actually looking for the same advertisement in the market,” said Chencho Tshering, the Managing Director of Kuensel.
Looking at the developments, where and who gets the advertisement needs to be decided and decided fast.