TRCSL Action: TNL insists it did not break any laws | Sunday Observer

TRCSL Action: TNL insists it did not break any laws

The controversial decision by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Sri Lanka to seal the transmission tower of private television broadcaster continues to cause ripples, with press freedom activists expressing concerns about the move and TNL vehemently denying it had broken any laws.

The matter came up in the Polgahawela Magistrate’s Court last Friday (8), after TRCSL sealed the transmitter and confiscated digital and broadcasting equipment on site.

Rejecting all charges against the decision obtained TRCSL to suspend TNL Polgahawela transmissions, the channel’s legal team brought to the Magistrate’s attention that TNL has not to-date received notification that its transmitter was violating TRC regulations.

Submissions were made before the Polgahawela Magistrate Ruwani Jayawardana based on the ‘B report’ on the transmission equipment being taken intocustody.

Teran Karannagoda, Chief Editor of TNL news said in a statement that TNL had not received notification from TRCSL so far on its Polgahawela transmission causing interference to licensed Government broadcasters.

But TRCSL lawyers told court that it had issued a letter to TNL on April 27, 2016 requesting the station to shut down the broadcast.

“TNL has responded to the said letter requesting proof of the interference and following this they received no further communication from TRC on the subject.” In response to the letter from TRCSL, the station’s lawyers said the channel had explained that interruptions could occur in private homes also due to factors such as the antennas used etc. TNL lawyers told Court that the channel would assist investigations into the interference at any time.

TNL legal team headed by President’s Counsel Anuja Premaratne with Vinod Wickramasuriya, Gayan Basnayake, Naushalya Rajapaksha, Sandeepa Sooriyaarachchi and Himasha Senadeera requested that investigations and the reports be conducted as soon as possible, since sensitive equipment can bedamaged due to humidity and other environmental factors. Counsel for the channel told Court that even the equipment not involved in transmission was taken to custody, including lightening rods. He further said TCL has violated the procedure, since the equipment was taken into custody without conducting an initial investigation. He said this violates the Telecommunications Act. The case was adjourned to July 6.

In his submissions President’s Counsel stated that it was a clear indication that reasons for such conduct were certain news stories run by TNL news.

Attempts made by Sunday Observer to contact Shan Wickremesinghe and Ishini Wicremesinghe over the matter, were not successful. TNL representatives instead referred to the official media communiqués issued on the matter.

Since the transmitter was sealed, TNL management has maintained that they would fight the TRCSL order legally.

Following the shutdown of the Polgahawela transmission center of TNL, Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) in Sri Lanka also claimed it has taken action against Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) for running an illegal transmission centre in Balangoda and other companies for operating illegal broadcasting centers. Speaking to the Sunday Observer on the subject, Chairman of SLBC, Siddi Farook said the transmitter taken to CID custody was a small transmitter of approximately 50 watts, provided for a school for an educational purpose.

“It has been the practice in the past to issue such transmitters for schools for educational purposes. However, the procedure needs special approval from TRC which has not been taken in this case. Also, there has to be a SLBC representative present at the site, which has not been the case.

Therefore, this was a technical error from our engineering side,” he said.

Farook further said SLBC had stopped issuing such transmitters at the moment. The transmitter currently remains in the custody of the CID. In a statement TRC said it was mandatory for all TV channels to pay a fee and obtain licenses to run transmission centers. TRCSL insisted that there was “no undue ambition” behind shutting down TNL’s Polgahawela transmission center. The statement said the transmitter was illegal and interfering with government channels and causing a loss to the Government.

The statement added that TNL TV had only obtained licenses to broadcast from nine locations – namely, Colombo, Nuwara Eliya(Mt. Oliphant), Karagahatenna, Piliyandala, Awissawella, Badulla, Gongala, Hantana and Ratnapura. TRCSL claims no license has been issued to VHF CH 11 or VHF CH 3 at Polgahawela, operated by TNL.

The Free Media Movement in a statement issued after the TNL transmitter was sealed said that based on past experience Sri Lankan society was speculating if the authorities have made legal provisions an instrument to silence criticism against the Government.