In Bhutan, a beautiful Himalayan country tucked between Tibet and India, to hold a workshop on reporting tools and numeracy.
I first visited 21 years ago, and again 11 years ago – and what a difference. Life expectancy has rocketed in that time, and the media scene has opened up with the arrival of the internet, TV, and private media. Where there used to be a weekly government-owned newspaper, there are now seven papers, all commercially-run to one degree or another. Two are dailies and the rest weeklies, as well as a host of radio stations and a TV station.
The opposition leader blogs actively, and the news organizations all run reasonably active websites.
Whether any paper would be viable without government advertising is another issue; and so is the question of how deeply analytical the papers are, especially over the non-newsy information that people need – over economic strategy, the impact of climate change, basic services such as sewage, and so on. But we’ll learn more tomorrow when the workshop starts.
Meanwhile, we get to see contestants from the Ms. Bhutan competition line up for a TV piece where they ask for SMS votes for them…