For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Lt Col Chandana Weerakoon MSc
The main objective of a Television Regulatory Commission is to regulate the telecasts and related activities in order to achieve the national interest before discussing the objectives and conduct of the organisation where the basic principles of the media is concerned. Television is the most powerful media presently the world is having since it has moved down to all the nooks and corners of the world. It is one of the most expensive media tools which everyone wants to posses.
There are three main objectives as far as this electronic media is concerned, i.e., inform, educate and entertainment of the general public. The controversial question is, are we setting these standards to the general public or nation. If not the government should bear the responsibility for segregating the facets for the viewers in order to counter the taxes, airtime and money spent for the equipment. The basic system of the management is the implementation of a Television Regulatory Commission as we have introduced the Telephone Regulatory Commission. But it should work positively to achieve the goals of the nation and protect the nation or the consumer, if I am using the business language.
We will revive few activities and role and task of the Telephone Regulatory Commission. The responsibility is to provide maximum communication facility with minimum cost in order to achieve the communication development and goals of the country. Though it could not achieve the national interest but the interest of the communication providers of various means of the country, but the development of a country totally depends on the communication development.
As we have discussed the role and the task of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission this too has the responsibility to make a better nation and address the requirement of them, but not the requirement of the media providers and advertisers.
Functions of the commission
These types of commissions are very common in all developed countries as well as in many Asian countries. As an example one can take the US Television Regulatory Commission. They have the responsibility of coordinating 129 television media agencies which telecast programmes to the American citizen as well as the world. Though they have 129 television stations they have regulated the programmes to suit the requirement of the nations, that is by different ways. One is, giving separate channels, business channels, etc. When we take our system we have equal type of programmes at the same time where business competition emerged sacrificing the interest of the viewer. But, the regulatory commission can divide and make the programmes to create fairness to all the viewers who are paying taxes and spending their precious air time in front of the valuable equipment.
When it comes to the advertisements of the sponsors, they have allocated time for the advertisement without hampering the entertainment of the viewer. Also the repetition of advertisement is totally banned, though it is very common in our TV channels especially the private TV channels. I can recall one such incident when teledrama introduced by the Rupavahini and ITN there were only two sponsoring advertisements before the programme and after the programme. Then later they introduced another advertisement in the middle subsequently they started 2 advertisements in between the programme. Therefore, the viewers have the total rights to control this kind of unnecessary harassment or interference.
To understand this, we can visualise a good example from Italy. They allocated only 6 minutes for advertisements for a 24 hrs (1 day) channel. When it comes to our system we can increase the advertising time even up to 10 minutes.
Television can be used as a remarkable tool for the development of the nation. Though we are mostly using this for propaganda purposes but the country can utilise this tool optimally to cater for the development of the nation. The identification of the requirement is essential to programme the requirement. A one such programme recently we launched was the educational programmes like Discovery programme and the news channels to the television system through satellites and IPTV system. But the nation has the right to listen to the latest news without censoring it by the competent authorities. Even though the censoring takes place the nation has been exposed to the world by other media like Internet or the radio broadcasts. Therefore, I feel the censoring is an age old preventive system of governance and need to apply the situational changes.
Also quality of the programme can be increased using very common computer programmes like MS Power Point but we never witness that during the discussions. The charts of pictures are shown by the video camera itself. It is only a few minutes effort by the technicians in the programme formulation. We can find the example situations from Discovery, CNN and other developed networks. Therefore, automation of system can achieve a very good programme formulation to cater for the educated viewers’ interest.
Analysis of present programmes of all channels
Next factor is the segregation of programme timings. I have analyzed the weekly programme segregation very carefully as shown below. (Per week)
Analyzing this, one can find tremendous neglected areas owing to negligible time duration which I have not included specially, Science, Agriculture, Culture, etc. which should be given the prominence as a developing country. And also being an agricultural-based economic system the country has to give more prominence to the airtime of the agricultural development and the techniques.
Airtime for the entertainment had taken prominence in the programme formulation that is 50% considering the other channels. Sirasa had allocated 65% of the airtime for the entertainment. I hope though the entertainment is required for humans this is not the hour to allocate this much of prominence to the subject area. We should be able to allocate this time for agriculture, social development, education, science, management in order to achieve the development of the country and the nation.
Other areas to be considered
Another annoyance is that a prominent person who is said to be skilled in Arts or Media is brought always on camera. I am of the opinion that the viewers are fed up of this type of segments. Viewers need to gather all-round knowledge through discussions/programmes on security studies, military, environment, conflict resolution, science, engineering, education, agriculture, international politics, personal development (not only the beauty culture) law, social sciences and English, Tamil, Sinhala languages to name a few.
At last the biggest Rupavahini telecasting agency does not have a science programme section though we have the world famous scientists in the country. If not for the discovery programme, the whole country will be blind as far as the science knowledge is concerned. Those are the innovations to be done by the responsible agencies in order to see the development of the country.
Other critical area is the scrutiny of the advertisement. The viewers can find ample advertisements which are give wrong information which can hamper the health and the interest of the consumers. Therefore, there is a huge obligation of protecting the nation by the multinational companies and other local producers introducing unwanted unnecessary items, and services to the country.
Also there is a necessity to allocate prominence to the indigenous products and the services, though we have many products in the country without giving the necessary publicity. As we have the censoring committee there is a requirement of establishing the committee for the censoring of the advertisements and it will be applied for other types of media too.
Recruting for electronic media
This is very important and controversial area, because the media is presently dominated by few families and their decedents. It is true that talents are inherent by the genes of the ancestors but we can not discard the other talented people in our country. Therefore we need to recognise the recruiting system in order to achieve the maximum efficiency and the contribution for the Nation. Professional presenters and other staff are the other areas of interest because most of the presenters or commentators are unprofessional for the subject. We can witness that same presenter is appearing in all fields of the programmes without basic knowledge on the subject. Also at the strategic level the decision makers should understand the requirement of all round knowledge from the spectators. That will only be achieved by giving the academic knowledge on the subject instead of thinking only about the experiences that the people have who are presently in the organisation. Positively adding of above factors will provide the necessary solutions for a better output from the most powerful media of the country.
In the above paragraphs I have described the requirements, malpractices, recruitment and the remedies carefully. Therefore, we can see that the implementation of the Television Regulatory Commission is an urgent and important requirement. Therefore, people must understand the procedures to be done by the said commission and the implementation of the same.
But the governing body should particularly think of working for the optimum interest of the nation specially in spite of achieving of self centric goals. Subsequently country will be able to find happy, informed, knowledgeable citizens in the country.