Jeopardy! category: ’99 (13-4-2015)
$1000 clue: In 1999 this remote Himalayan kingdom became the last nation to get TV, when it was installed in Thimphu
The gist: The clue makes it seem a little more quaint than it was – television had actually been banned by the monarchy country until then. Sixteen years ago, Dragon King Jigme Singye Wangchuck of the Himalayan country Bhutan* decreed that, in accordance with his country’s guiding principle of Gross National Happiness, he would lift his nation’s embargo on television. The first step was to be the establishment of the Bhutan Broadcasting Service, a public broadcaster that was dedicated to educational, cultural, and spiritual programming in line with Bhutan’s Buddhist society. King Singye was a modernizer, bringing his nation further into the global village than it had ever been before, including establishing formal relations with other countries, joining international bodies, encouraging Bhutanese students to study abroad, and introducing democratic reforms. The gradual road toward telecommunications reform had begun in 1973, one year after King Singye took the throne, and consisted of a half-hour of radio news and music every Sunday. The station was taken over by the government in 1979 and it became the Bhutan Broadcasting Service in 1986. Over the next decade and a bit, television slowly crept into the country via the multiplying satellite signals that became impossible to keep beyond its borders. During the 1998 World Cup in France, the government set up a giant TV in Thimphu’s Changlimithang Stadium to broadcast the tournament to the city’s soccer-loving inhabitants. The next year, during King Singye’s silver jubilee, he announced to another crowd gathered at Changlimithang Stadium that they would be allowed to watch TV in their own homes, with the “sincere hope that the introduction of television will be beneficial to [his] people and country.”
Far be it from me to cast judgment on the Dragon King’s decision, but many others have done just that. The introduction of television, particularly foreign media, and even more particularly violent, drug- and sex-laden Western media, has been blamed for an uptick in violent crime and miscreantism in Bhutan over the past 16 years. BBS has been overtaken by media conglomerates like Star TV, which has quickly ramped up the type and variety of programming available in the country. In 2006, television became available across the entire country, rather than being concentrated in the urban centres. However, international interest in the effects of Bhutan’s great television experiment seems to have waned since the early 2000s, and there doesn’t seem to be any easy-to-find analysis of the situation anymore. Here’s hoping that it is living up to King Singye’s dreams. By the way, the largest media event in Bhutanese history was the 2011 wedding of King Singye’s son and current Dragon King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (don’t worry; King Singye abdicated the throne to his son in 2006 and is still a healthy 59-year-old) to his queen Jetsun Pema. It was by far the largest media production with the most extensive media coverage ever handled by the BBS.
The clue: Seeing as most people probably haven’t heard of Bhutan at all (it comes in 158th out of 197 in this Sprocle quiz), it’s unlikely many are familiar with the introduction of television in the country. The major hint here is, of course, the capital Thimphu. If you’re on Jeopardy!, know your capitals, and know all of them!
In Jeopardy!: For a tiny country, Bhutan gives an impressive showing in the J!Archive, returning 44 clues, including two full categories devoted to it. The two most common themes are the country’s monarchy and the country’s mountainous, Himalayan geography, appearing in nearly half the clues each. The Dragon, either as the Dragon King or the “Land of the Dragon” (which is the translation of the local name for the country), appears in eight. India, with which Bhutan has close relations, is in 11. It’s also a popular entry in geographical “B” categories.
*Capital is Thimphu: “Tim’s poo [Thimphu] smells like butane [Bhutan].”