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Sunday, 17 June 2012

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ITN leads the way in local television - ITN chairman



The proposed office complex



ITN Chairman Rosmand
Senarathna

Today the television industry is one of the biggest revenue earning industries and also one of the most challenging industries to be sustained in the long run. It's not easy being at least a successful network executive these days considering the challenges in the industry.

In Sri Lanka, there are eighteen local television networks and on top of that, hundreds of international TV channels are available through satellite TV which is another booming trend in the country. Competition, meanwhile, is everywhere. Other than the competition within the local TV channels, cable TV or the satellite TV is the upcoming threat or the challenge that local TV channels have to be more conscious about.

For decades television network has been about reach. Programers traditionally chose shows with broad appeal, the better to get millions of viewers and, in turn, persuade national advertisers to buy those eyeballs.

That era is essentially over and the networks are scrambling to adapt to a fragmented landscape where even popular shows are lucky to pull in massive viewership. Eventhough this is a changing trend worldwide, it is rather questionable if we still could be able to come up with a better solution to rethink about the television network in the country.

Having the above thought in mind, Independent Television Network (ITN) has celebrated a successful 33 year stint this year on June 5. The present Chairman Rosmand Senarathna sparking about the 33 years of celebrated journey of ITN said:

"When considering the television history, ITN was established in April 1979. The founder of ITN was Shan Wickramasinghe, who is an Engineer in his profession and he introduced ITN with the association of Anil Wijewardhana. That time the transmission was only limited to Colombo and it was operated from Mahalwarawa, Pannipitiya. Initially, ITN programs were restricted only for the English speaking, upper middle class society.

History

However, due to various issues, ITN stopped its transmission for some time until Thewis Guruge, the Director General of SLBC was appointed by the competent authority to resume the transmission. Thereafter, the SLBC engineers took over the assignment and recommenced to transmit the programs from June 5 1979," Senarathna recalling the history of ITN said.

"I assumed duties as the Chairman of Independent Television Network (ITN) from May 31 2010 and this is my second year with ITN. To be appointed as the Chairman of ITN is something truly significant for me because I too started my career in the television industry in 1979.

"I did my live television commentary in Sinhala for the non-aligned conference which was held in Havana, Cuba. We recorded the visuals at Padukka Satellite station.

"At that time I was the officer in charge of the main control room at SLBC. From my very first television commentary I was fortunate enough to get a quick training program in Japan. Once I returned from my training program, the Chairman of SLBC, Thewis Guruge requested me to create an opening theme for ITN.

"With the available equipment at that time, the visual I produced for ITN, was utilised for more than 11 years. In 1981, I did my first outdoor musical show for ITN which was the very first outdoor musical television experience at that time.

"Likewise, I have been involved with the ITN from the very inception and it's quite pleasant and a challenge to be appointed chairman of ITN," he said evoking some of the important memories from his 46 years as a respectable media personality.

"Within these two years I was able to do a few changes on the screen, however there wasn't any need for any major changes.

"ITN was almost number one at the time I assumed duties as the chairman. Therefore, it was a matter of maintaining the spot. However, I was able to introduce the two reader concept for ITN news and we have done some subtle changes to improve the standard of the ITN news bulletin as well.

"Also we have introduced new programs such as Sanhinda musical program about senior artistes produced by Suraweera, Venasaprogram which is done in a novel format produced by Sarath Kumara Perera.

"These two programs are well received by the viewers. Other than that, I introduced the Poya Day program to ITN which I have been doing since 1997. Most importantly we were able to improve the quality of tele-dramas which has been a controversial topic for the past few years. When considering entertainment programs including tele-dramas, our main concern is not to promote any segments or components which are in conflict with our culture, traditions and moral values. This is not an easy task when considering the competition. However, being the number one television network in the country, we believe it is our responsibility to serve high quality programs to our viewers", he stressed.

Fully fledged

"As far as the current position is concerned, we were able to record the highest revenue last year and comparing with the previous year, it is a growth of 18 percent.

"Therefore, we have started improving the infrastructure facility and the high facility five storeyed building is almost completed with fully fledged high defection technology.

"Once it is completed we hope we can go for sophisticated programing. Also, there are two more five storey buildings on the pipeline which we hope to start construction next year. Other than that, we have arranged to build a fully fledged OB bus with high defection technology. We hope we will be able to do more sophisticated programs using brand new technologies during next year" he said.

"Eventhough there are 18 local TV channels available, it is not possible to fine-tune all these channels in to an equal picture quality.

This is mainly due to the poor coverage and fortunately ITN viewers are out of this risk since ITN has the biggest coverage islandwide. That can be another reason why ITN could sustain the number one position for quite some time.

Therefore, there are few solid reasons that ITN has become the number one TV channel beating the other 17 local TV channels in the country.

"We could remain as the number one TV channel in the country for the past few years mainly due to the popularity of our tele-dramas. According to statistics it is a proven fact that the highest viewership are there for the tele-dramas.

"Earlier private TV channel carried more South Indian tele-dramas where everybody was captivated to those programs. We could identify the market potential and ITN made a strategic move by way of telecasting mega Sinhalese tele-dramas whereby we could achieve the highest viewership and to become the number one TV channel in the island. However, now it is a matter of sustaining, because there are lots of criticisms for mega tele series in terms of the highest number of episodes and poor quality of content.

"Therefore, now we have restricted the mega series only for 100 episodes which will give a fair chance to upcoming tele-drama directors, artistes and producers as well", he said.

"During the past few years, reality programs used the majority of airtime not only in Sri Lankan TV channels but across the world.

"It spread like a disease and in most of the countries reality shows became the magic stick to change people's destiny overnight. However, other than Mind Star quiz program, ITN was not able to sustain in this category.

"Since we are enjoying the number one position we did not want to move more towards reality shows since other TV channels were carrying reality shows and they were pretty much surviving in the market.

"Therefore, if the necessity arises, definitely ITN will move to that category because ITN has all the necessary technology and human resources too. As I think now this trend is in a decline and if we are stepping in to the area we may come up with a new concept and new format, however, as at today we are pretty much strong and still there's no necessity for a drastic change to move into this area," he said.

"As far as ITN is concerned, we have identified our top priority as national and economic development. Because we believe that we have more obligations towards the country and the general public compared to other media channels.

"Therefore, we are allocating huge airtime for national development and economic development. Our news bulletin too holds much focus on these two areas.

"Therefore, it is an understandable fact that we have very limited airtime left for the other entire segments, but we make sure that we will do our best to promote national and economic development whilst giving our fullest support and co-operation to cultural and religious programs.

"We are really committed to promote spirituality and positive thinking through our programs. For example, we were able to win the 30 years of catastrophic conflict due to our positive thinking attitude.

Patriotic ideas

"We are much concerned about this qualitative aspect and it is quite necessary to cultivate patriotic attitudes among the people. Therefore, we are doing many programs to promote patriotic ideas among the general public, especially targeting the younger generation. At the same time, it is important to understand that it is not politics. Because, we are 100 percent concerned about the country but not to promote any political ideology.

"However, it is quite understandable that major national development projects are handled by the existing government. But we are quite conscious not to promote any individuals but to promote the concepts of the projects and how it may help uplift the living conditions of the general public".

"It is important to mention that we are giving equal focus to religious ideologies. For example we were the first to telecast live the arrival of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith after he received his Cardinal position. Likewise, we are completely committed during the Vesak season and all other religious activities too with a nationalistic perspective.

"I admit that we still lack programs which only targeted at the younger generation. However it is not an easy task to manage all the segments at once maintaining the priorities. However, so far we have managed well balanced programs which cover most of the areas," he said.

"The viewer is always concerned and conscious about variety or changes. However, when considering a change especially being in a visual media industry, it is important to understand whether it is suitable for our cultural and traditional beliefs.

"I think this is the problem with the new generation and new trends because, they tend to do all kinds of changes but most of them are in conflict with our Sri Lankan identity and culture.

"There are quite a lot of young people being involved with ITN as creative crew. I must say they are quite dedicated and creative. However, I believe we have to improve their creativity further and that is why we are in the process of conducting seminars, workshops in terms of introducing them with the new technology; and attitude changing is also a major part of the process.

"We are quite confident of our competitiveness. Therefore, at the same time it is quite important to be conscious about our own values as Sri Lankans' and I'm very much proud to say that ITN has always taken this as our own obligation to promote and secure the Sri Lankan identity while being open for the changing world," he said.

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