Pioneers of radio in Bhutan

June 2, 1986, Kawajangsa, Thimphu –

The Radio NYAB (National Youth Association of Bhutan) turned into the Bhutan Broadcasting Service. In other words, a youth club radio that had started 13 years earlier in 1973 became the national broadcaster with the commissioning of a proper radio transmitter and a studio in Kawajangsa, where the Royal Audit Authority now stands. The new name was announced live on the radio by Dasho Karma Lethro, Deputy Minister of Communication & Tourism, as he inaugurated the station. Both BBS and Kuensel together with another agency, the Development Support Communication Division (DSCD), which was later merged with BBS, were under the government ministry.

After the historic broadcast, Kuensel took the commemorative photo (below) of the team that successfully launched the first professional radio station in Bhutan. I was just 6 months into the job as a junior engineer – having completed an engineering diploma from what used to be called, the Royal Bhutan Polytechnic (later renamed to Jigme Namgyel Engineering College). I received a princely sum of Nu. 875 as my monthly salary making me the fourth highest paid staff in BBS. However, Bhutan was poor and the government had no money to hire foreign professionals or manual workers. We were the experts as well as the labourers.

We didn’t even have the budget provision to buy steel tubular poles. Our country was that poor. So, we set off for the jungle one early morning, and felled two tall trees from above Chokortse. We told the Forest that we needed them for Lhadhar (giant prayer flag). We sliced off the branches, shaved off the barks, and dragged them down to Thimphu. There we dug two giants holes at 25 meters apart, made concrete mixtures and planted the two long poles that became our radio towers. And between the two towers we hung the folded dipole antenna, which we also made it ourselves, after buying the copper wire from Siliguri. Dasho Sangay designed it.

Since I was the youngest and the most agile, they made me climb up the naked tall pole. No safety gears. Just bare hands. But there were lots of passion and pride – and laughter, thanks to Neten Dorji mimicking Johnny Lever and Shatrughan Sinha all the time. Once, Phub Tshering, our supervisor nearly killed me when he switched on the transmitter while I was still coming down the pole.  

As June 2 got closer, our working hours became longer. Ashi Louise Dorji (the head) or Dasho Sangay (our chief engineer) brought meals from their own homes, since the office had no entertainment budget or money for over time payments. They even dropped us home in their private cars in the wee hours of the morning. There were no pool vehicles in BBS then. Dasho Rinzin Dorji, who was the Director of the Department of Information & Broadcasting, visited us regularly, and motivated us.

The rest, as they say, is history.


(Standing from left to right – Adap Kinley Dorji, Junior Engineer; Tashi Dorji, Program Officer; Dasho Rinzin Dorji, Director; Ashi Louise Dorji, Deputy Director; Neten Dorji, Technician; Dasho Sangay Tenzing; Station Engineer; Phub Tshering, Assistant Engineer. Sitting from left to right – Thinley Gyeltshen, Junior Engineer; Kezang Dorji, Technician; Yours Truly and The Best Looking, 😜😜😜 Junior Engineer; and Lalit Kumar Ghaley, Technician)


The rest of the BBS, from the news & programme teams, who are not in the picture are: Sonam Wangmo, Tashi Dendup, Pema Tobgye , Leki Tshewang, Wangda Rinzin, Kinga Dorji, Dorji Wangdi , Bishnu Chetri, Ugyen Tshomo. Almost all of them are no longer in BBS. 

(Picture below is a clipping from Kuensel of 8 June, 1986)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s