As Bhutan takes its initial steps towards introducing community broadcasting in the country, the first ever ‘Capacity Building Workshop on Community Radio’ is underway in Phuentsholing, being conducted by the UNESCO Chair on Community Media team from University of Hyderabad (UoH). This 10-day workshop that started on November 17 is organised by the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC), Bhutan with support from the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), UNESCO.

Anchored by Vasuki Belavadi, faculty at the Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad, the workshop is being attended by 22 participants from eight pilot community radio stations to be set up in Bhutan. Kanchan K. Malik, faculty fellow with the UNESCO Chair and Hemant Babu of Nomad India were among the resource persons.

Dasho Pemba Wangchuk

Inaugurating the workshop, the chief guest, Dasho Pemba Wangchuk, Dzongda (provincial executive head), Chukha dzongkhag (province), declared that the experience gained from the eight pilot community radio stations being initiated in Bhutan would contribute towards policy formulation for the community broadcasting sector in the country. He pointed out that there was minimal coverage of rural areas in the newspapers and the voices of the rural people rarely get represented in the media existing in Bhutan. Community Radio can be that bridge, leading to the development of the dzongkhags (provinces), he said. He cautioned against the misuse of community radio and emphasized that it must remain apolitical and serve social issues.

UNESCO CHair on Community Media speaking at the Inaugural ceremony

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, the UNESCO Chair on Community Media, Prof. Vinod Pavarala said the participants would be the pioneers who will show the way towards building of a robust community sector in Bhutan. Prof. Pavarala expressed his belief that community radio in Bhutan could not only promote knowledge sharing, but also, more importantly, address ‘voice poverty’. He referred to the 2015 Gross National Happiness Survey in Bhutan, which observed that geographically most of the unhappy are located in the rural areas, and said that community radio could be a means to ‘create just societies that enhance the well-being and happiness of all people.’

Representing the Ministry, the Coordinator of Training, Tshering Yangden, said that community radio in Bhutan will seek to reach the unreached and that it would focus attention on the needs of the rural areas.

– Dr. Kanchan K. Malik, Associate Professor, Department of Communication