Right content adhering to good journalism key to its success story
For years, he did everything his way and today he has achieved what he desired to be. Ever since his childhood, Lahiru Mudalige’s dream was to become a media person. He never stopped, but chased his dreams until he landed a job as a radio jockey just a day after he sat for his GCE AL examination. From then onwards it was a story of success through hard work, commitment and of course passion. The bottom line of his story is that he has reaped the rewards for all his untiring efforts.
So here he goes… Lahiru Mudalige talking about Lahiru Mudalige, who today heads Hari TV, which is regarded as a reputed digital media platform that adheres to good journalism and ethical media practices. His career motto is ‘If your product is right, chances are that you get the right feedback too.’
It is a huge challenge for an individual like me to engage in such multiple roles from content tasting to presenting, without just focusing on viewership figures. This is a role I ought to play while being conscious about conventional media strengths and the influential power they wield
“My biggest dream was to someday become a television personality. I started off with several children’s programmes on TV when I was as young as 11 years. My first television exposure came with the Rupavhini Muthuhara programme. Then I did children’s programmes in the Kandurata radio service and later at Lakhanda and Pavana radio. It’s sad that present day children lack that kind of platform today to learn and hone their talents. Even media circles in schools then were not only powerful but also an ideal ground to identify and fine tune talents of children with passion. Schools also had radio stations where children were the main stakeholders. When I was 16 I joined the SLBC’s Lama Pitiya. I am from Kandy. I studied there. But my ardent passion for the media brought me down to Colombo D. S. Senanayake College where I did my AL exam. After a long journey switching from one radio channel to another, I finally got the vital break at Swarnavahini thanks to senior journalist Hema Nalin Karunaratne. This is where I was moulded into a real media personality generated by some popular TV segments. I capitalized and seized all opportunities that came my way even though they appeared small or insignificant. I stopped pretending to be like other TV presenters. I just became myself. Going down memory lane, I wonder how many times fortune had smiled on me to become what I am today.”
I started my own company after I left Swarnavahini in 2014, because I wanted to explore my full potential in the media field. I wanted to make digital media a business model. My intuition prompted that there existed a digital fragment outside conventional television. I was confident about myself. I directed almost 600 music videos and they became popular on Youtube garnering incredible viewership. That feat also fetched me all key awards. This inspired me to start Hari TV three years ago and it was embraced by the people within a short span. I scored on the talk show concept on Hari TV. I spiced it up with a lot of variety and quality in every department. From last year I was exposed to the culture of good journalism and that really motivated me and on the other hand I reaped its benefits to a large extent. My motive was not amassing large-scale views but to sustain as a digital platform, earning a good name by dishing out wholesome content. There was no proper talk show with a presenter at that time. My talk shows were studio-based using the best technology. I had that gut feeling that I could draw a section of television audiences too if I did it in a professional mode and eventually that strategy worked well for me.
Within Hari TV I created sub channels like Hari TV news, Hari TV music, Hari TV voice and now we are soon introducing a segment for children too. Though I am basically known as an entertainment-oriented presenter, I never wanted to make this a purely entertainment channel. I even shaped a novel perspective to political talk shows on this platform. I am a constant learner. I am a keen observer. That helped me grow, learn and make this people-friendly. I am grateful to media persons like Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya, Nalaka Gunawardane and others who guided me through the good journalism culture.
I capitalized and seized all opportunities that came my way even though they appeared small or insignificant. I stopped pretending to be like other TV presenters.I just became myself
It is a huge challenge for an individual like me to engage in such multiple roles from content tasting to presenting, without just focusing on viewership figures. This is a role I ought to play while being conscious about conventional media strengths and the influential power they wield. My biggest strength has been the goodwill, trust and good name I maintained as a TV personality. This is the media brand I created. I believe that my patience and the dash of luck have paid dividends today. Giving priority to content over reach was another decisive factor. I always stood for what I believed in. I never chose low taste or gossip type content and I have proven it by example. Ironically, when I steadfastly stuck to this principle, I saw some mainstream media slowly slanting towards this gossipy type content. That earned me big audience chunks that were earlier hooked to mainstream media. I touched upon social issues, gender issues and that magnetised more viewers to Hari TV. I found and proved that we can do justice to the people of this country within a democratic frame. The Helidarawwa series with the formidable duo Narada Bakmeewewa and Thanuja Jayawardana was also broadcast on this platform. Then during the Corona first wave especially, we focused on people impacted by Corona to the extent that no other mainstream channel dared to even get closer to. Hari TV is a unique TV channel within the Youtube universe. Now my desire is to bring in new facets to this channel with fresh vibes not just to highlight Lahiru Mudalige. This belongs to the people. My biggest audience share of 60% is in the 25 to 35 age group. But the content we bring up on social issues is relevant to other age groups as well. So I have a fair share of people in the 60 -70 age group too. Contrary to common myths, we can’t do anything on Youtube violating regulations laid down by them. There is a code of conduct that we have to follow, if we are to sustain and earn a good name. Hari TV has always been doing that right thing. We cannot take the wrong path because we have a huge international audience too. My Hari TV channel has been ratified and accredited by You Tube as one that adheres to its guidelines in keeping with its core values and most importantly sticking to original unplagiarized content. We never stoop to plagiarism of any level. Today we see some digital media channels that boast of overwhelming reach but they have not been ratified by You Tube. So I treat this as a privilege and a reward for our true commitment. This feeling is so fulfilling.”
text: Ramesh Uvais
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