This column was published in Business Bhutan on 17th October 2015.
I now understand the rage directed at BBS when live streaming fails. It comes from a good place. When you are a Bhutanese living abroad, the smartest way of being part of anything momentous in the country is via the internet. When that opportunity is not available, there is a tremendous sense of loss. It feels like the Nation has left us behind. This is akin to the feeling one gets after waking up and realising you did not hear your alarm, and are late by an hour for an appointment. Increase that feeling of panic by a hundred times- this is why it is not an ideal state of being.
My first such experience was (fortunately) not because of BBS. It was ten bogus links to the Bhutan-Qatar World Cup Qualifier match. There have been very few times in my life that I have suffered from acute helplessness, but that moment is easily one of them. I was rescued from my pitiful situation by a Bhutanese living in Australia.
Non-resident Bhutanese inhabit a wonderful online world of interdependence. I have particularly enjoyed being a citizen during our WCQ football matches (three since I left Bhutan). The reactions in real-time to the matches, the comments on Facebook and Twitter, and the Live chats; it is as if we never left the country. This is when my homesick heart is the gladdest.
We have no conclusive data on Bhutanese living abroad, but I am confident that it is more than a hundred thousand. This is, by the way, Thimphu’s population too. It did not occur to me earlier (I am trying to make amends now) to accord some degree of importance to this Bhutanese population. Now that I am one of them, I have come to realise how limited our (mainstream journalists and media people) view of a “Bhutanese” audience is. Our definition of the Bhutanese audience has been, and continues to be largely boundary-specific.
The Bhutan Broadcasting Service, as the only broadcaster ought to pioneer more content engaging this segment of their audience. The same could be said of our papers, and radio stations. I do know that some private radio stations have attempted to do this, but efforts must be scaled up. I will not be surprised if most consumers of online news are Bhutanese living abroad. I have never been greedier for news from Bhutan than when I travel or when I am away for long periods. The quicker we recognise the significance of this audience, the better it will be for our cash-strapped media houses. Really. Do the math.