by Dr. Tilak S. Fernando from London

During the past two weeks, news spread among Sri Lankan compatriots like lightning, with much enthusiasm and joy, informing one another about the birth of a new Sinhala Channel via Vectone Television. With equal eagerness I too sat down to relax and watch the new channel.

It was ‘ Live News’ when Sinhala Channel struck me for the first time. I was impressed. Then, there followed a recorded tape by a few Sri Lankans with their personal views and recommendations.

Having had the experience before with the Sirasa Sinhala Channel I began to monitor it on a serious note, but to my disappointment I could not see much of a difference or improvement from that of the flopped Sirrasa Channel in the UK so far.

There are serious problems at the moment with this new channel. Perhaps one could turn a blind eye to them thinking they are ‘teething problems’!

The ‘pre-recorded news from Colombo is seen fed into a lap top PowerPoint programme and televised as ‘Live’ even late at night UK time which is early hours in Sri Lanka. This in fact is an incorrect interpretation.

Sadly many a time I have seen how the Vectone reporters’ voices from Colombo get chopped off even before they finish their last sentence or their name while activating this powerPoint programme.

Sharook Khan may be an idol and a sex symbol for many in Sri Lanka, but it does not mean that it would be wise to have him dancing and singing most of the time through a Sinhala channel from London, supplemented by a few limited Hindi tapes doing the rounds non stop, making a carbon copy of what Sirasa did before.

Then there are a few minutes of an interactive programme where a young lady invites people to speak to her at a cost of 50p per minute on a premium number. Well one has to be professional in conducting such a programme and its function should be to ensure that what is being discussed at callers' expense is of substance and value to improve the channel and beneficial to the viewer, and certainly not to appear as silly in requesting callers to sing, (who cannot sing for toffee for a start), for the purpose of dragging the conversation in an attempt to earn money out of premium calls.

When I did a critical review on Sirasa TV in London after its untimely demise from London, I made my point in saying that producing a Sinhala Channel was an enormous task and one needed to do one’s homework before embarking on such an arduous task. One would have expected the new management to have done their homework thoroughly, but unfortunately it does not appear to be so, as far as I have seen and heard as the very presenters of the new channel keep on apologizing live, pleading with the audiences to cultivate patience until they hunt for good Sinhala programmes from home. Surely why did they start a channel before they got their act right?

This period can be called a harvesting time for the media in Sri Lanka. In November we are going to have a Presidential election. No doublet there will be umpteen number of interesting TV debates, discussions, political view points, etc through many channels of TV in Sri Lanka.

It is unfortunate that when a new Sinhala Channel is born in the UK at such a ripe time, Sri Lankans in England are still denied that opportunity to watch such programmes and monitor the political situation back at home. I am certain that every Sri Lankan would love to see such programmes.

There are so many professionals, intellectuals and academics in this vast city of London, let alone throughout the UK, and if the Sinhala Channel management is serious about their actions in launching a Sinhala channel to be seen as a professional exercise and not as an amateurish laughingstock, then the time is still young and ripe for them to listen to constructive criticism and make it a success.

We, as Sri Lankans, are all behind a Sinhala Channel and it does not necessarily have to be offered on a plate free of charge. A service or a product which gives the consumer value for money will always have its market share. In that sense, I am certain that if the Sinhala Channel is going to give the consumer money’s worth he/she will not batter an eye lid in paying a subscription to watch that programmes of interest and entertainment.