23 October, 2020

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Nothing Newsworthy

By Pubudu Laksiri

As satellite television is now common in Sri Lankan households many of us enjoy the privilege of watching many international channels on news, sports, movies etc. I wish to make some interesting observations I noted in watching some of the Indian news channels and the stories carried by them; and despite how funny it may sound I feel that a comparison needs to be made with news reported in local media. The comparison shows to us different cultures of media reporting and also reflects different demands of society.

keheliya-and-mahindaAs televisions in Sri Lankan households are dominated by family from early evening thanks to the mega television culture, I always eagerly await that half hour of Sri Lankan news as it gives me a reason to join the family household. The expectation of watching news for me as well as any reasonable minded citizen would be to update themselves on the latest stories that affect their lives and the public large. But to my greatest frustration the leading stories reported by the news presenter features the ‘discovery of the mysterious white tortoise’ followed by the sensational story of how a female anaconda has eaten up the male anaconda in the national zoo. I watch these amusing stories jaw dropped at their irrelevance to the public and wondering to myself thinking of one good reason for these reports to be made the headlines of the day. Quite unsuccessful in that task I decide to move on and focus on the other story making news; and again I’m quite disturbed with the five minute long story on the latest ‘Reality Show’ produced by that news channel. And now… Oh for god sake !!! that hippie looking mohawk styled  gigolo is interviewed in the news studio for another five minutes. Unable to bear his interview any more I start cursing the channel, only to be silenced by my mom. And without even knowing it, news is over and the commercial break is followed by the usual soap opera at 8. 30 pm; and surprisingly its first five minutes of cliche drama and not to mention its stupidity makes me wonder how little difference it is from the previous hour and half of news I just watched.

And finally as my family hits the bed finishing their daily two to three hour long soap opera session; I grab control of the remote and tune in to some Indian news channels praying for something different… something newsworthy. Interestingly I am watching a live debate on homosexuality in India and views of academics and religious leaders are entertained by the presenter. I am thrilled with the arguments endorsing the rights of homosexuals in India and overjoyed by the manner in which the staunch religious advocate runs out of arguments only to realize his own irrationality that silences him. It certainly is honey to the mind to see how crucial issues of a country are so valiantly exposed to the people and gives goosebumps in seeing the manner in which properly mobilized masses initiate change to tradition in society. As the debate draws to an end the headline stories are followed; it features the end of the anti corruption struggle as the long awaited anti corruption bill is finally passed. And in more happy news the Supreme Court decision to criminalize homosexuality is to be petitioned by the government in an attempt to cater to the interest of the people as well as the elections ahead in few months time. And of course the battle against sexual violence on women continues with the media initiating programs and projects enhancing the safety and rights of women.

These stories do not by any way mean that Sri Lanka is a problem free country where the only injustices that take place are tortoise robberies and anaconda biting’s. If one looks closer enough he should be able to figure out how the young generation in certain parts of Colombo and outstation fall prey to the drug menace which is fast rising its ugly head. For those who are unaware the rise of drug use in Sri Lanka is accelerating and it is youths who become victims of this dastard culture; it not only burdens their parents and families but also blurs their futures. Of course I do not suggest that the media in a single handed attempt deal with the issue; but certainly I believe that the media has a task to expose those behind this ugly business. And also it is disappointing to see how the media has forgotten the Rathupaswala people who fought with their lives at stake; only to demand the most basic necesity of all mankind; clean water. Has the once headline making story now become unnewsworthy or do they need another life to be sacrificed; to turn their cameras to their suffering. And then there are the Eknelligoda’s, Bharatha’s, Lasantha’s, Nimalaruban’s, Raviraj’s and many who have been forgotten and their stories demanding justice been neglected and replaced by those of the anaconda’s and tortoises.

Of course I do not attempt to paint white the ugly background of Indian politics and society. But that being said I think it is reasonable to laud the efforts made by its national media to bring issues to the people and to mobilize the people in the direction of thought and action. The passing of the Jan Lokpal bill for anti corruption would have only been a mirage for the country had not it been for the media who hailed the efforts of Anna Hazare to garner masses against corruption in India. Had not for the media the Delhi rape victim Damini, would just be another record in a file never to see the light of day. It is the crucial role played by the media which enabled the Aam Aadke Party (Common Mans Party) to record a significant win in their debut elections in Delhi state elections; and form a government in the state. The constant media follow ups has led to the AAP fulfilling its promises to the people within days; reducing electricity prices by 50 percent and giving free water to all residents of the state etc. Surely,  India is progressing with change and combating the undesirable traditions and facets of society and the media is spearheading the battle.

But where are we ? Our media seems to be not driven by a desire to serve the public; but only seems to be driven by a desire for profit. The consequences of this media culture has devastating results. These are evident by the people’s ignorance during the impeachment of a Chief justice, their silence when recently the alleged murderer of politician Nalanda Ellawala was released by court, their silence when it was rathupaswala children, Roshen Chanaka and many more in the list. The gravity of this dilemma is not felt by the people until its consequences challenge them one day; and on such day they shall feel the pain and misery of those whom they ignored all along. This collective error of our society can only be remedied by an initiative that properly mobilizes and awakens the dormant masses; and who best can make such initiative than the media. But sadly their budgets are spent on soap operas and reality star shows and has no time for the ordinary man any more.

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Latest comments

  • 17
    0

    These meeharakas on the pic will only ruin our nation. Budu saranai aupita:(

    • 9
      0

      Congrats to you Pubudu@; this hit the bull^s eye -a TIME WORTHY- article.

  • 9
    0

    Pubudu Laksiri,

    Valiant effort in trying to show the depth of irrelevance the media in Sri Lanka has descended to today.

    Throughout your well written piece I see the stark absence of the close connection with politics today and media today in Sri Lanka. Seeing that you are an observant and a thinking man your failure to connect the horrendous part that political thuggery plays in creating a nonsensical media is puzzling.

    Basically it is well understood that there is no free media in Sri Lanka today. Any social issue discussed or exposed in Sri Lanka today will be irksome to the ruling Rajapaksa clan, eg, the Weliweriya case. We all know quite well what the fate of a journalist will be if he or she is to irk the powers that be.

    What else can the cowed media in Sri Lanka do other than broadcast inane stories of tortoises and anacondas.

  • 9
    0

    We fully endorse your article. Best Wishes to you Pubudu Laksiri.

  • 6
    0

    P.L.

    Is there a “reality” that is being represented by the media, or is it the other way around: that is, “reality” itself is constituted by various “representations” generated by the media? In present day media-saturated world the latter seems to be the case. No wonder the line between soap opera and “news” seems to be blurry. Because news itself is concerned with fiction: the narratives we employ in our social and political lives. We tell stories to make sense of what is happening in the world. So in a generic sense, we can say, without narrative there is no meaning in anything that we do – whether it is politics, religion or science. As we know, “history” is the attempt to narrate the story of the totality of human action through time.

    In a more specific sense we can also observe, as you do, that our political and other social narratives that constitute the “news” are increasingly taking on a soap operatic quality: melodramatic and cliche-ridden, or silly and farcical. This is no surprise as our collective life as a people is fast losing its bearings. And this is not confined to our society. This crisis of meaning is universal.

    The so called reality shows play on both these elements of the blur between “reality” and “fiction” that we experience in today’s world.

    Perhaps this increasing awareness of the meaninglessness of life is pushing people to seek solace in drugs?

    Is human life really more significant than the lives of tortoises and anacondas?

  • 6
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    Most electronic media houses are owned or controlled by the government. So what can you expect? And the print media are the same. Look at the racist and bigoted garbage that appears day in day out in papers like the Divayina.

  • 1
    0

    BBS Rep,

    That was well put.
    By the way, given the appalling history of the BBS, and your astute and judicious style of putting across your views, are so incongruous to the BBS style and culture, I find it difficult to condone that you are actually a Rep of the BBS.
    Be that as it may, your contributions, without doubt, are adding unwarranted feathers to the BBS cap.

  • 0
    1

    American media does this too, though not as blatant and bad as SL media.

    American media will waste valuable air time on the most inane celebrity news but ignore or only topically touch on the many conflicts around the world and the role of the US in world affairs.

  • 6
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    Anyone attempts to question the authorities on the SUBJECT are met by prevarication as usual. Media spokesman like Keheliya reacts like number one idiots. I now feel there is absolutely no press freedom in SL. How would the authorities convince all these to UNHRC in March ?

    • 5
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      The average in the country bottle up what they have to say – because of fears of being caught by white vanning or the like threats (literally the beeshanaya). Now this has been becoming familiar to them. May also be the average are easily manipulative than any other developing nations when looking at their voter outcome in recently held elections.
      Now they have put opening of extended highway to off again planning elections in that areas so that they could easily deceive southerners^eyes let them forgetting all abuses. Road construction or any other development projects are just eye washes. This man and tactics of oligarch are well planned being intoxicated by power.

      • 4
        0

        How can any leader be in good mood for 24 hrs ? Has anybody ever seen indian PM or any other leaders in the region being in this mood ? They are pressed by people^s issues, being more hear ted for the sake of their masses. But MR seems to be acting since he is not genuine at all. Deceitful qualities by all nature. Has he yet made any remarks in terms of the victims of Hikkaduwa lately ? If yes, surely not than just few words evasively. Is their an any big difference of those thuggish uncivilised monks that harmed the properties of those church people and this man MR ?

  • 3
    0

    I watch Indian NDTV24/7 regularly and enjoy its rich content of vibrant debates, public discussions on crucial national issues (multi lingual with many languages used), interviews with Govt Ministers et al with no holds bared. The standard of English and professionalism displayed by the anchor presenters/reporters compare with the best the world news channels can offer. Yes, we too have limited non-State English news in SL for 30 minutes but does not cater to English speakers?

  • 1
    0

    Pubudu would perhaps like the following
    headlines for a change:

    X The Commission to Investigate Bribery or Corruption has
    arrested the Prime Minister over the continuing inquiry
    into the detection of the largest quantity of heroin in
    Sri Lanka. Its Chairman said the Pakistan High Commissioner
    was among those under investigation.

    X The Inspector General of Police has said that no police officer
    from him down to a constable has been accused of taking bribes
    after their salaries were raised to one million rupees per month
    and allowed to import duty free buses.

    X Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena has said that all students
    about Grade 5 will be given a free lap top each. They will also be
    given free connections.

    X The Agriculture Minister announces that all farmers in Sri Lanka, no
    matter what crop they cultivate, will be given a mobile phone each.
    He said it would be Apple i Phones so farmers can keep in touch with
    dealers about prices.

    X Petroleum Minister announces that every car owner will be given 500
    litres of petrol free of charge every week. However, they will be
    required to use this only on Sundays. For this purpose, the Petrol
    will have chemical which will make it look green.

    X Social Services Minister says free high definition television sets
    will be given to funeral undertakers. This is to help mourners to
    watch television at night. He believes the Government message of
    development will travel fast, both to the dead and the living.

    X Higher Education Minister announces that duty free liquor permits
    will be issued to University students.

  • 0
    2

    Pubudu Laksiri, Nice article, a few points:
    1-respect others and their viewing preferences ESPECIALLY your mother. Think about buying a second television to ease pressure on the rest of the family. 2-Don’t hesitate to use the OFF button if a program doesn’t come up to your expectations. 3-Don’t hesitate to CANCEL your subscription if a channel does not come up to your high standards. 4-Remember TV is YOUR SERVANT, not the other way around. ALL THAT SAID, in the old days before TV we enjoyed all the best soap operas in town AND the most informed news service. We were lucky to have a small staff to attend to our large and busy family and they would bring us fresh episodes daily. FOR EXAMPLE: Magilin, mother’s trusted 40 something maid, had a daily instalment of things that happened in the Fernando household where relations between Mr and Mrs F’do was always at boiling point. What Mrs F’do suspected but WE all knew was that Mr F’do, a very capable Headmaster was giving extra tuition to the prettiest and smartest pupil in the SSC class. So sad how it all ended! Then there was the case of Mr Jayasekera, a dayakaya, who would take sil regularly but Magilin learnt that he would often sleep with their ayah as she was scared of the dark. How very gallant of Mr J. BEST Of ALL – when Banda was shot, we knew even before he was taken to the Hospital which was less than a mile away. We must thank our driver for that. So you see Pubudu, their was news and entertainment long BEFORE TV.

  • 3
    0

    I have stopped watching Sri Lanka TV a long time ago.Its real waste of time.

    Do you have any idea about the time loss sitting in front of the tele? On average, a person spends 3-4 hours per day watching TV.
    3.5hrsx365=1278 hrs (53 days a year)

    “I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on I go into another room & read a good book.” – Groucho Marx (Source: Wiki Answers)

  • 0
    0

    I don no vether to laff or cry laksiri.

  • 0
    0

    Both print and electronic media thrive on gossip and grievances. Electronic media has the advantage of using technology for live reporting but sadly they report only the tragedies and grievances. After hard day’s work some form of entertainment helps to reduce stress and when you switch on TV, state TV channels show white clad jokers, boring mega tele-dramas and news of unimportant incidents such as white turtle or anaconda. Private TV channels are worse. There is nothing called viewers’ rights in Sri Lanka. In a half an hour program, only 20-minutes would be allocated for the program, whether it is a tele-drama or a melodrama. However, there are some programs I like to watch these days on state controlled TV even with long interruptions. They are “Isiwara Vedaduru”, “Issarahata Yanna”, “Venasa”, “Dora Mandalawa” and “Sanhinda”. The remote control helps to change the channel when advertisements interrupt. Marketing profession helps both state and private TV to survive by an annual show, in which “best” things are rewarded by “people”. The day after the show, the channels interrupt programs for weeks to show that people have chosen the channel or programs in the channel as the best in the year. So the remote control has become useless.

  • 0
    1

    We have stopped watching news for the last two years. Depend on the grapevine to get the most important ones. Sometimes we tend to be outdated. But no harm done. Our TV is in a room and we need to do a special visit there to watch something of interest. So “join us” my friend.

    Sarath

  • 0
    0

    Here is something Newsworthy

    Keheliya implicated in vehicle scam

    “According to present regulations, the SLRC is not permitted to make a payment for a vehicle used by the Minister. If the decision was made under special circumstances, the SLRC should have should have advertised in newspapers and called for tenders prior to the transaction. A special committee has to then conduct a proper technical evaluation. None of these regulations, according to government sources, has been followed by the SLRC authorities prior to this vehicle deal involving the Minister. The Nation reliably learns that the SLRC authorities have not even seen the registration documents of the Land Cruiser jeep for which the state corporation has made monthly payments! Questions have also arisen as to whether the SLRC Director Board can proceed with a request made by a person who belonged to the personal staff of the Minister.On the other hand, if the SLRC is hiring a vehicle for any purpose, an agreement should be signed with the provider of the vehicle. In this case, the SLRC has not signed any agreement with any party with regard to the transactions and the payments have been made to a person named Ms. D.D. Gunasekera whose address is No.12, 15th Lane, Galle Road, Colombo. The Minister had attempted to obtain another vehicle in the same manner soon after Mohan Samaranayake assumed duties as the Chairman of the SLRC. However, Samaranayake had turned down the requested and instructed the authorities to follow a proper tender procedure, effectively shooting down the deal. Minister Rambukwella was unavailable for comment.” – See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/latest-top-stories/item/24953-keheliya-implicated-in-vehicle-scam.html#sthash.jwwnHLeL.dpuf

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