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BBS: A journey through time, from radio pioneers to high-definition TV

Bhutan Broadcasting Service, BBS what initially started as a Sunday radio service pioneered by a group of enthusiastic youths has come a long way, disseminating information, entertaining the mass and most importantly sharing timeless stories of Bhutan with the rest of the world. Fast forward to five decades, BBS has migrated to high definition (HD) from standard definition (SD). Let us take a stroll down memory lane on the history of BBS.

During the summer break of 1973, a group of volunteers formed the National Youth Association of Bhutan or NYAB and introduced radio service through their common passion for radio broadcasting.

NYAB established the first makeshift radio studio in Taba in a space that belonged to a forestry office. Transmission was done through a wireless transmitter then.

For the first year, they went on air for half an hour every Sunday only in English. In the following year, they extended their air time by half an hour and included a Dzongkha segment.

With no other modes, communication was extremely difficult back then due to terrains, deep gorges and fast-flowing rivers. However, the government soon realised the potential of radio and took it under the wing of the Department of Information and Broadcasting in 1979. Thereafter, the airtime increased to nine hours a week.

English and Dzongkha programmes were broadcast on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Considering diversity, Tshanglakha and Lhotshamkha were also introduced in 1980.

Soon in 1986, the broadcast was made available daily after Radio NYAB was renamed as the Bhutan Broadcasting Service.

The office was moved to the present campus in Chhubachu the following year.

Briefly, after six years of renaming NYAB as BBS, it was delinked from the government following a Royal Kasho from His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo in 1992. The delinking from the erstwhile Ministry of Information and Communication granted full autonomy to BBS.

As BBS Radio continued to reach the previously unreachable corners of the country, BBS television was introduced on 2nd June in 1999. The historic introduction was made coinciding with the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of the enthronement of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

On the same day, Her Majesty the Queen Mother Tseyring Pem Wangchuck launched the national television service in Sangaygang and expressed her appreciation for the progress made.

“I would like to congratulate the management and the staff of BBS for the hard work that they have put in to make this historical television service come as a natural progression of the success achieved by them. The inauguration of Bhutan’s Television Service today marks the full emergence of modern media in Bhutan as we stand on the threshold of the 21st century.”

Television broadcasting has expanded from just three hours a day in 1999 to three hours of Dzongkha and two hours of English segments a day today.

In February 2006, BBS was launched over satellite with help of the Government of India. The Indian government also spent over Nu 100 M for the construction of the new office building.

Currently, BBS has two channels with over 260 employees. The second channel for educational and entertainment purposes was launched in 2012. The first channel continues to broadcast news and current affairs.

The Chief Executive Officer of BBS shared that though BBS might be the last broadcaster to migrate from SD to HD, it is an important milestone in the history of the lone TV broadcaster of the nation.

With another milestone in its history, BBS will continue telling stories of all Bhutanese on TV, radio and its social media platforms.

Devika Pradhan

Edited by Kipchu