SLBC will preserve its identity as pioneer radio network- Director General | Sunday Observer

SLBC will preserve its identity as pioneer radio network- Director General

Chandrapala Liyanage
Chandrapala Liyanage

The new Director General of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), Chandrapala Liyanage spoke to the Sunday Observer about his innovate plans to develop the SLBC as Sri Lanka’s flagship broadcasting entity and to promote a responsible media culture while competing with other private radio channels in the country.

“The Government has taken a policy decision that the SLBC will be an independent institution without political influence. It has the responsibility to preserve its identity and continue as the pioneer radio network in the country,” said the new SLBC Director General, Chandrapala Liyanage. The country has gone backwards due to the irresponsible conduct on the part of certain private media channels. The Government and the SLPP election manifesto clearly say that the SLBC and SLRC would be independent media institutions responsible to Parliament.

At present, the SLBC faces some setbacks due to share frequencies and competitiveness among private radio channels. After the1980s when permission was given to start new radio channels, the identity and monopoly of the SLBC was shared by other radio channels.These channels were used to sell information and develop business ventures as well as realise personal and political agendas. The SLBC’s listenership has reduced to some extent due to competition among radio channels. However, the strength of the SLBC, its institutional capacity and the workforce, has not been reduced at all, Liyanage said.

The highest number of awards was received by the SLBC at the State Radio Awards held last Thursday. The SLBC which commenced operations in 1925 as the world’s largest radio station is the second oldest radio station in the world followed by Peru, Argentina and Japan.

The SLBC gained a lot of public attention in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Those days the country’s political camps changed due to the influence of the SLBC. Professionals produced by the SLBC rendered a yeoman service to society. Our frequencies were aired even to the regional network. That is why the name Radio Ceylon became popular the world over.

In order to make a transformation in the SLBC, as its management, we have to think afresh in keeping with the Government’s media policy. The Government has taken a policy decision to run the SLBC as an independent institution free from any political influence. We may get some financial assistance from the Government to do this. However, the SLBC has a responsibility to preserve its identity and continue as the pioneer radio station in Sri Lanka. We are studying the issues faced and how we are going to face them, he said. Some SLBC programs are monotonous, running over the past years.

We are going to commence a new Sports Channel.The upcoming matches of the West Indies and England to be played here will be broadcast live via this channel which is to be launched on February 20. It will not be confined to broadcasting cricket matches only. Through this channel, our intention is to provide assistance to promote all sports in Sri Lanka. The channel would also give live broadcasts on school cricket tournaments. A full time unit will also be set up for this purpose.

One of the key issues faced by radio and television channels is the lack of professionalism in announcers. As a result, some announcers and presenters are subject to criticism in society. We need people of the calibre of veteran presenters such as Premasara Epasinghe, Palitha Perera and Themis Guruge for the radio and television sectors. Therefore, we have planned to launch a new project named Katahandata Aruthak 2020 on February 20. This project intends to provide assistance to youth who are between 18 and 30 years to become successful announcers or presenters. We don’t expect to recruit announcers to the SLBC by launching this project. Our intention is to identify talented announcers and guide them to become good announcers. The SLBC will issue a certificate of recommendation so that they could perform as announcers in radio, television and other public forums. This certificate would be vital to join a media institution. A pool of announcers is to be maintained. If the SLBC or any other media institution is looking for announcers, they can make use of this service.

We are also planning to organise a SLBC awards ceremony to honour the service rendered by employees. This would motivate SLBC staff. The SLBC has seven regional channels - the Ruhunu, Rajarata, Kandurata and Wayamba Sewayas, Yal FM, Uva Community Radio and Pirai FM in the Eastern Province. We cover the regional listeners through these channels. In addition, we have three national level Sinhala channels, two Tamil channels and one English Channel.

These channels have provided information to the masses over the past few decades. At present, some of these channels have been distanced from listeners due to competitiveness among channels.

We have started a media campaign to convert the City FM channel to a popular channel. Similarly, we hope to effect timely changes to the English Channel as well. We request listeners if there are any shortcomings or any changes to be made to these channels to submit their proposals to us. We also make an open invitation to Sinhala, Tamil and English listeners to join hands with these SLBC channels.

There is a decline of advertisements in the SLBC and other state media institutions due to prevailing economic constraints. The economic contribution by the SLBC and other state media institutions have come down over the past few months.

We have the capacity to give a wide media coverage from the SLBC channels. We request major commercial institutions to give their advertisements to the SLBC which possess a laudable history of 95 years as the pioneer broadcasting institution and can give an effective coverage to any product, service or publicity campaign of any institution. However, the capability of the SLBC is not highlighted in any rating or advertising company. A wrong impression has been created in society that there is no point of giving advertisements to the SLBC.

The SLBC is the key broadcaster and has the potential to promote any product or service. Some advertising and PR companies attempt to attract people unethically. They don’t have a program to provide something worthwhile to the people. SLBC channels are committed to provide productively to listeners.

When we look at the today’s news content, private media channels give more publicity to Government news.

Therefore, it is not fair to paste the same old label to the SLBC and SLRC that they are biased towards the Government. The SLBC is not biased. As a responsible media institution, we have no right to highlight personal issues, sling mud at people or rouse anger and hatred among people. Unfortunately, that was done in the recent past.The Media Minister Bandula Gunawardana has said that no state media institution extended support to the incumbent Government to secure power. Unlike in the past, state media has no power to elect or defeat Governments. At present, that power is with the private media and social media. However, our intention is not to elect or topple Governments.

The country has gone backwards due to the irresponsible conduct on the part of certain media. The Government and the SLPP election manifesto have clearly highlighted that the SLBC and SLRC would be turned into independent media institutions which are held responsible to the Parliament.