Bhutan grapples with influence of TV wrestling violence

Television only came to the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan five years ago. Until then it was banned, for fear of the corrupting influence it might have on the country's Buddhist way of life.

Now, after five years of unrestricted viewing, the influence of the small screen on a country that has been described as the "last Shangri La" has its leaders worried - especially by American wrestling. The choreographed fighting of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is being blamed for rising violence and plans are being considered to stop it being shown.

Television and the internet were allowed for the first time in 1999, to mark King Jigme Singye Wangchuk's silver jubilee. The decision was taken after thousands filled the main square of the capital, Thimphu, to watch a special showing of the 1998 World Cup final in France on a giant screen.

In those early days the only broadcaster allowed was the BBS - the Bhutan Broadcasting Service, a national service. But after six months, global broadcasts were allowed and that, according to Bhutanese interviewed for a BBC programme called TV Invasion , is where the trouble started.

Bhutan lies among the wild peaks of the Himalayas, wedged between China and India. Most of the country is without paved roads. Even where there are good roads, the terrain is so untamed it can take two hours to travel 40 miles. About 70 per cent of Bhutan's 800,000 people still live without electricity.

The country only opened up to foreign tourism in 1974 and since then travellers have brought home stories of an unspoilt landscape of 24,000ft peaks and a traditional way of life.

So the arrival of international television came as something of a shock to many. When WWE wrestling was first shown in Bhutan, it perplexed the people, who did not know that the violence depicted was carefully staged. The country's only newspaper received several letters from Bhutanese children asking why men were beating each other up.

And now there are reports of increasing violence in Bhutan's schools, with children copying wrestling moves they see on television.

But many are sceptical about the influence of television on previously isolated communities. A study in St Helena, which only allowed television nine years ago, found no link between television violence and children's behaviour.

Dorji Ahm, a Bhutanese youth worker who spoke to the BBC, was dismissive of wrestling's influence. "The violent channels are CNN and the BBC," she said. "There, you know this is not a movie, this is reality."

But there are also fears that Bhutan's traditional culture is being eroded. "Young people are now much more in tune with what is happening around the world," Shockshan Peck, who has studied the influence of television in her country, told the BBC. "The more we learn about the world the more we lose our own culture."

Bhutan is the last survivor of the independent Buddhist states of the Himalayas. Tibet is under Chinese occupation, while Sikkim has been annexed by India.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable