Live TV

The sixth session of the Parliament has concluded. And again, during this session too, the National Assembly did not allow its proceedings to be broadcast on live TV.

But this time, the Assembly allowed the Question Hour discussions to be carried on live TV.  That’s a slight improvement. And I welcome it. And hope that, from the next session on, BBS will once again be allowed to cover the National Assembly’s entire proceedings on live TV.

On a related note, BBS’s own efforts at covering the Parliament’s discussions seem to have regressed. Till the last session, BBS would, after their evening news, organize live panel discussions on important issues that were being debated in the Parliament. This time I didn’t see any panel discussions on topical issues emerging from the Parliament. They seem to have stopped.

This is unfortunate. The live panel discussions were well attended, especially by viewers throughout the country. And the discussions were widely considered to be among BBS’s more popular segments.

So as we conclude the sixth session, I offer a quiet prayer: that henceforth the National Assembly allows its entire proceedings to be broadcast on live TV; and that BBS revives their live panel discussions.

Public business

Members of the National Assembly met last week to consider points submitted by the local governments and MNAs for inclusion in the Parliament’s 5th session.

The so-called “pre-agenda” meeting is an important conduit for issues of national importance to receive the National Assembly’s attention. We must take the issues seriously as they are an important part of our responsibilities. Article 10.2 of the Constitution requires that:

Parliament shall ensure that the Government safeguards the interests of the nation and fulfils the aspirations of the people through public review of policies and issues, Bills and other legislations, and scrutiny of State functions.

During the meeting, the opposition party proposed four issues to be included in the forthcoming session. They are:

  • Review of the recently approved Economic Development Policy;
  • Review of the government’s proposed reform measures for the construction sector;
  • Review of McKinsey, especially to consider how and why they were recruited, and the work that they are doing.
  • Review of the Punatsangchhu hydropower project and especially to consider why work that can be done by nationals are being awarded to foreign contractors.

The meeting decided against including these points in the agenda, arguing that the MPs would require a lot more time to study the issues carefully.

Since the opposition party feels that these issues are both important and urgent, we have decided not to wait for future sessions. Instead, the opposition party will file motions to discuss these issues during the Parliament’s fifth session itself.

The opposition party also appealed to the Honourable Speaker to permit live TV broadcast of the entire proceedings. The speaker reiterated that live TV broadcast would be allowed for all important sittings, but not for the entire session.

Remote control

So, BBS has not been permitted to broadcast live coverage of most of the proceedings of the fourth session of the National Assembly. Only the opening and closing ceremonies, and the discussions on the Anticorruption Commission’s annual report will be broadcast live. This is how it was in the National Assembly’s third session. And, like then, I am still concerned that the independence and freedom of the nation’s only TV station is being compromised.

But what I recently read in the Kuensel got me even more concerned. BBS’s general manager was quoted as saying: “MoIC wants us to submit a proposal for NA coverage and we did it.” The article goes on to state that the BBS “…are yet to hear from the ministry.”

BBS should be regulated by BICMA, not MOIC. And, BBS should be managed by its Board of Directors, not by MOIC.

Wanted: live TV

The poll on the National Assembly’s decision to ban live TV coverage for most of its proceedings attracted considerable interest. But with 292 of the 315 participants (that’s 90% of them) disagreeing on the National Assembly’s recent decision, our readers’ views are clear. Only 23 voters (7%) supported the ban. And 10 people admitted that they really didn’t care.

The public outcry against the National Assembly’s decision is obvious. And I’m not just referring to our poll. BBS has shown many people, from various walks of life, all denouncing the restrictions imposed on BBS TV’s live broadcast. Yet, the National Assembly shows no sign of reconsidering its decision.

This is a very serious matter. And we cannot just ignore it. But what can be done? To begin with, write to your member of the National Assembly. Tell them that the ban is not good for democracy. And that you expect them to reconsider their decision.

The media also needs to do something. If they feel that the ban undermines free media, and that it is illegitimate, then they must demand that BBS be allowed to continue with the live telecast. And if their demands are not met, they should be ready to take the matter to the courts.

I’ll meet with the media to seek their views.

Our next poll is on the performance of our government. On the first day of the Parliament’s third session, our PM spoke extensively on the successes of the government. I wish to know what you think.