Idiot box and morals
television has become an integral part of today's family life.
It has moreover become part and parcel of daily relaxation with
the entire family glued to the idiot box especially after dinner
to lap up the fare that is being dished out. When TV first burst
into the Lankan scene in the late seventies programs were
essentially mundane and innocuous as would be the case during
the experimental stage. There was nothing brazen or
controversial that raised eyebrows. Sinhala teledramas dominated
the prime time entertainment with the occasional Western or
Hindi movie screened to cater to a diverse audience. Even the
commercial broadcasts were of a mundane variety and more often
than not evoked mirth for their bland and supercilious nature.
In short TV then provided family entertainment. By this we mean
its content was such the entire family could watch television
together without unease and embarrassment.
However with the passage of time TV content underwent a
dramatic change with more and more bold and explicit scenes
creeping into its programs making it embarrassing for family
viewing of TV any more. So much so the authorities at one point
were compelled to order TV stations to shift the screening of
certain films/programs into the late hours for obvious reasons.
This was a time when there were only a few TV channels operating
and the authorities were able to monitor programs. Today with a
plethora of local channels and mega sponsorship there appears to
be no control on the fare that is being dished out. So much so
that it has warranted Government intervention no less to
scrutinise Television content to see if there is a corrupting
influence that cause harm to young minds.
Speaking at a school function in Kandy on Sunday Mass Media
and Communications Minister Keheliya Rambukwella wanted a ban on
TV commercials, teledramas and other programs that pervert the
minds of the young. He went so far as to say that the harm this
could do to young minds could be even worse than the youth
taking to drugs.
A good many TV viewers no doubt would endorse the sentiments
expressed by the Minister. Today TV has been drawn so deep into
the jungle of commercialization that it has lost all direction
and purpose. Some of the programs aired on private channels
should certainly come under the microscope for their callous
disregard for basic decencies and moral standards. It is no
exaggeration to state that some of these programs border on the
vulgar where young couples are made to perform various stunts
and gyrations in provocative dance sequences. There are also
those who might question the language used by certain announcers
and the impressions they convey in their narrations. There are
also vulgarization of the Sinhala language in most instances not
only by TV anchors but also radio announcers which are picked up
by the young and adopted into their daily vocabulary.
As a medium of entertainment TV has failed the larger masses
with its determination to cater to a niche market comprising the
youth. In the process it is acting irresponsibly showing little
or no sensitivity to the country's cultural values or national
ethos. While striving to promote 'superstars' among the young,
certain TV stations have thrown overboard all sense of propriety
and decency making it all too obvious that what they are
interested in is to grab the limelight and improve their
True, TV is essentially a medium of entertainment and there
may be differences of opinion as to what constitutes
entertainment. And with the communication revolution where it is
difficult to hide anything on any subject or sweep things under
the carpet. It is futile to block . Television becoming bolder
and daring with their brand of entertainment. But since TV is
viewed as a family in the majority of homes it is essential that
certain criteria be laid down where entertainment is dished out
without impinging on morals and certain set values and customs
held aloft by most Sri Lankans.
Not just in prime time. There are even cartoon programs for
children where certain unsuitable language and terms are used in
the dubbing process which as pointed by the Minister is of a
substandard quality. These terms needless to say would be etched
in the minds of children and become common currency among them
leading to a debasement of the language.
While TV without doubt is the most popular mode of relaxation
and entertainment to Lankans as with the rest of the world the
authorities should also ensure that certain unwritten laws are
not breached by TV stations in the race to improve their ratings
and hog the limelight.