Tuesday November 21, was World Television Day and the United Nations says this day was proclaimed in recognition of the increasing impact television has on decision-making by bringing world attention to conflicts and threats to peace and security and its potential role in sharpening the focus on other major issues, including economic and social issues.
World Television Day is not so much a celebration of the tool, but rather the philosophy which it represents. Television represents a symbol for communication and globalization in the contemporary world.
On November 21 and 22, 1996 the UN held the first World Television Forum, where leading media figures met under the auspices of the UN to discuss the growing significance of television in today’s changing world and to consider how they might enhance their mutual cooperation.
According to the UN, television is acknowledged as a major tool in informing, channelling and moulding public opinion. Its impact and presence and its influence on world politics could not be denied.
According to the English online website, television has a big impact on the way we spend our free time. It probably affects younger people more than adults, as they watch more TV. Critics of television claim that TV takes away too much of our free time so that we lack time for other activities like family conversations, reading or getting exercise.
It also shows us a world that is not real. Television often encourages us to think that the world is more violent than it really is. Through TV we perceive the glamorous life of people and believe that they are better off than we are.
The website says, television contributes to our education and knowledge. Documentaries and information programmes give us insight on nature, our environment and political events. Television has a huge impact on politics. In election years, discussions, speeches and campaign news of candidates are broadcast almost every day. Political parties buy TV time to present their views and bring ideas to the audience.
Sports attract the biggest audiences on television. TV stations pay enormous amounts of money to broadcast big sporting events, like the Super Bowl, Olympic Games, or professional basketball, football and baseball. Because of television some sports have gained popularity and more and more people engage in them.
Sri Lanka did not have any television until 1979. Businessmen Anil Wijewardena and Shan Wickremasinghe, elder brother of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, set up Sri Lanka’s first TV station, the Independent Television Network (ITN) which started broadcasting on April 15, 1979. But ITN remained independent for less than two months as the J. R. Jayawardene government took control of it on June 5, 1979 following a dispute. The country’s second state-owned TV station -- the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) -- was set up in 1982.
The Act required the SLRC to Act maintain taste and decency and not to incite crime and disorder or cause religious or racial tensions. The government had a monopoly on television until 1992 when private TV stations were allowed but regulated by the SLRC.
Almost 40 years after the introduction of TV, today we have nearly 40 channels telecasting programmes in the Sinhala, Tamil and English languages while cable television networks give access to more than hundred international channels.
State television channels have guidelines such as not telecasting programmes that may incite violence, racial or religious tension. Unfortunately especially after the new freedom we won after January 8, 2015, some private TV channels appear to be influenced by business interest or extremist political parties.
Even in advertising there is little by way of ethics or regulation and often we see children being used or misused to market products, some of which are even known to be harmful to children. The government is reportedly considering the setting up of a media regulatory commission and we hope public opinion will be obtained from all sides and it will be done in good faith.
What TV journalists and authorities must know is that without a vision -- including that of being the voice of the voiceless people -- even TV will lose its credibility and