Filed in Books & Media

Television Comes to Shangri-la

Kinley Dorji

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© John Mcconnico/APFor centuries, the kingdom of Bhutan has shrouded itself in a self-imposed isolation that began to lift only in the 1960s, and even then only slowly. Tightly wedged between the world's two most populous nations, India and China, this tiny country has jealously guarded its sovereignty. with strictly controlled tourism and a conservative foreign policy. Unlike much of the non-industrialized world, Bhutan pursues a cautious development policy, one that limits the economic assistance of foreign governments. This nation of just over half a million Vajrayana Buddhists pursues a stated goal impossible to imagine anywhere else: Gross National Happiness. In local interpretation, this is a blend of material progress, spiritual well-being, and a healthy life in the kingdom's pristine natural environment.

But if Bhutan found protection for centuries behind the inaccessible Himalayan peaks, it is now grappling with a new challenge: television, introduced two years ago during the twenty-fifth coronation anniversary of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Bhutan's fourth hereditary monarch. Recognizing the unavoidable influence of globalization, as well as the growing demand for television (particularly for World Cup coverage) among it own citizens, the government of Bhutan permitted the introduction of cable access two years ago . . .

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