We got news that Mr Thinley Dorji is no longer with us, this post is dedicated to his loving memory, may his soul rest in peace.
BBS Thimphu (also spelled as Thimpu) has always fascinated DXers since the late 1970’s when its shortwave signals began travelling out of this Himalayan mountain kingdom. First it was Radio NYAB (National Youth Association of Bhutan) which started on 11th Nov, 1973 using a 300 watts Hallicrafters BC610 transmitter rented from local telegraph office, only had a sunday afternoon request program, that too in the amateur radio bands, the shortwave service was later upgraded with better transmitters and antennas in the 1980’s . The Government took over Radio NYAB in 1979 and renamed it to Bhutan Broadcasting Service in 1986. The first coverage of BBS Thimphu in IDXCI bulletin was in 1986 by Sudipta Ghose and Prodyut Banerjee who had travelled all the way up to the Thimphu and had covered their facility in detail. However, as the radio broadcasting scene from Bhutan developed over the years the DXers appetite for radio news has never been fully satisfied.
There we were suddenly face to face before Mr Thinley Dorji who is the Trasmission Head of BBS Bhutan. We started off with our curiosity – why is the shortwave signal from BBS low ? Presently they were running the DRM capable 100 kW Thomson transmitter TSW2100D which was installed in 2007 with the help from Government of India. One component of this solid state transmitter, “synthesiser” turned unstable three years later and is causing mismatch today . It has now been sent for repair. The transmitter manufacturing company has faced similar problem with the same component in a transmitter installed in Sudan. The support staff of Thomson from Malayasia are working on this problem. The old 50 kW transmitter is still there but since it runs on tubes, the availability of tubes have become difficult and expensive. Moreover with the heating of tubes tripping and breakdowns are not uncommon. We were curious if electricity supply was responsible for erratic signals. The answer was a firm NO. Bhutan has adequate hydro electricity power stations and electricity is not an issue like with Radio Zanzibar’s fluctuating signals.
What about the antenna system ? Presently they are using an omni directional dipole. This new antenna system was fabricated by engineers of BBS Thimhu in 2007 with consultation from a German firm. The engineers are quite happy with this new antenna system. The previous antenna system was designed and built by the engineers from AIR. It was a directional antenna radiating north and south. That was not very effective because most of the Bhutanese population is along the east west direction. What about interference ? Co-channel interference from Chinese stations and at times from AIR was a problem. BBS is also scouting for a shortwave frequency with less interference from its neighbors. Once when Myanmar was testing on the same frequency they did inform them in advance. The problem before BBS today is to improve the day time reception. When prodded about the problem with day to day running of the station – the answer was the antenna system – there is always a struggle with the antenna system.
How does the BBS run ? It is a flat organisation with a managing body under a Chairman. There are only six technical persons. This includes two maintainance engineers. What about their monitoring organisation ? BBS gets monitoring information from its bureau’s. There are bureu’s in the East and in the South and manned by persons who also perform other tasks too. They provide monitoring inputs about BBS reception within Bhutan. However, BBS is considering a dedicated monitoring setup.
The studios are located 1.5 km’s away from the transmitter site and uses the fiber optic link, STL link and the satellite link. For out door broadcasting especially from remote mountainous regions of Bhutan, where an OB van will not be able to travel, Bhutan Telecom (BT) provides the fiberoptic link for such transmissions. One such occasion was to cover the length and breadth of the country before the the national elections. Through the links of Bhutan Telecom BBS can connect to all of the 22 districts in Bhutan.
The FM broadcasting newtork in Bhutan is very robust. There are 34 FM stations . Each station has an antenna which is connected to two transmitters by multiplexing. Most of the FM transmitters are from an Italian company called DB Electronica. There are some Chinese transmitters which are supplied by AGB of China. In the field conditions the DB transmitters are more stable. Presently programming is in Dzongkha, Lhotsam, Sharchopa and English 24 hours. A 24 hours second channel is in the anvil. The FM frequencies have fixed pairing 88.1 MHz & 90 MHz, 92 MHz and 93 MHz, 96 MHz and 98 MHz.
Mr Thinley Dorji has grown with his orgasnization – the BBS, when he first joined in 1990 there was this 50 kW shortwave transmitter as the main transmitter which was on 6025 kHz. Later he spent 2-3 years in the stores, from there he moved on to sound recording before going on to short wave transmission. Today he heads the transmission department and sounds really motivated and dedicated to his job.
What about overseas reception…..Germany is the first country which is mentioned by Mr Dorji, obviously in terms of most reception reports received. Finland and Japan also figures prominently as the countries from where BBS -Thimphu receives many reception reports. From among the neighbours, the Indian state of Assam on the west Border of Bhutan has big listenership of many of their request programs in all languages.
Just as we were wrapping up compiling this interview, there was the news of Voice of Russia planning to close down its SW transmission in 2014. In the backdrop of such setbacks for the shortwave enthusiast, BBS Thimphu and dedicated personnel like Mr Thinley Dorji keeps up the hopes of DXers.
(Mr Thinley Dorji was interviewd at Kolkata in July 2013 by Dr.Supratik Sanatani, Sudipta Ghosh and Babul Gupta)
Featured on cover Louise Dorji, Deputy Director of BBS .
March 1986 issue of “DX-Kuuntelija” featured a story by Sudipta Ghose/Pradyut Banerjee’s trip to BBS
Some rare photo’s of NYAB/BBS taken by Sudipta Ghose & Pradyut Banerjee during their trip to Bhutan :