21 Jul 2015 | about 4 years ago

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It must rate as one of the most unorthodox gifts from a ruling monarch to his people.

To mark the silver jubilee of his rule in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck has opened up the Bhutanese sky to television transmission.

For decades, the country has imposed a ban on television in a zealous bid to safeguard its cultural identity.

Now, its people are free to watch transmissions from the local Bhutan Broadcasting Service.

Bhutanese people gathered in eager anticipation for the historic first broadcast from their very own television station.

The long awaited moment came nearly twenty minutes late due to teething problems
at the transmission centre at the Bhutan Broadcasting Service in Thimpu.

The broadcast began with a tribute to the widely admired king .

Bhutan is perhaps one of the last countries in the world to start beaming television programmes.

The Bhutan TV broadcasting station was formally inaugurated by Queen Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck, one of the king's four wives.

She said the move was well timed with the country's globalisation efforts and she hoped that the Bhutanese people would wisely guard against the negative influences television could bring to their homes.

"Here in Bhutan we are neither blind to its disadvantages nor oblivious to opportunities it has to offer. Having pursued for twenty five years a philosophy of development aimed at promoting gross national happiness through harmonious balance between spiritual and material growth, we know that the strong fabric of Bhutanese society can withstand and be enriched by the winds of change".
SUPER CAPTION: Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck, Queen of Bhutan

Bhutan has also opened up to internet and e-mail to connect its people to the information super highway.

Before television was introduced formally, many Bhutanese violated the law by installing satellite dishes to beam in foreign TV channels.

Private video shops renting Indian and Hollywood movies are also very popular in urban Bhutan.

But most Bhutanese are looking forward to having their own television channel.

Run by the Bhutan Broadcasting Service that operates the radio network services, the TV channel will telecast programs in the national Dzongkha language as well as English.

"I'm excited. As soon as I heard there is going to be a program, I switched on the television. I heard it was at 6.45, it came on at 7.00. I am quite excited."
SUPER CAPTION: Thinley Dem, Student

The Buddhist kingdom has opened its doors to change on its own terms and at its own pace.

What the satellite invasion from the skies will do to the carefully preserved Bhutanese cultural identity remains to be seen.

For now, the Bhutanese are hoping that the impending small screen revolution will blend with their spiritual traditions as they cautiously tread towards the end of their self-imposed isolation.

You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/youtube/caefa512a116383de34cfa661faf1ce0
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