Why I blame Sirasa/Maharaja.
Posted by Ajith on March 24, 2010
Everyone else blames Merv the perv for the recent Dawson Street incident. I blame Sirasa/Maharaja.
Not that I approve Merv’s dirty job. We know him. I wonder whether this Rastapopoulos ever did an honorable thing in his life. Why mince words condemning him when that makes no difference? Why upset the master by complaining about his ‘above the punishment’ favorite? Let him appoint another ‘special inquiry’ and then go to hell. Should I care?
Instead I blame Sirasa/Maharaja. Not that I have scores to settle. On the contrary, I am an ardent fan of Sirasa. When the vandals smashed its ultra modern studio at Depanama, I created the FaceBook group “Sirasa we are with you, whatever happens”. I have friends at all layers at Maharaja, from top to bottom. From very top to very bottom. One former Maharaja driver now drives me home everyday. The short address book in my mobile starts with a Sirasa employee (Asoka) and ends with a Sirasa employee. (Yasarath). Period.
I blame Sirasa/Maharaja because I believe they still can and should learn. I know its long term objective is to be the best broadcaster in South Asia. An ambitious dream. Still I like to see them achieving it. Any distractions, naturally upset me.
Sirasa/MTV/Shakthi’s achievements within a short period of their existence are momentous. Kingsley redefined radio when it was almost dead. Buddhika turned a new page in political debates. Sirasa news team was always the first in delivery, and when they weren’t CID questioned why. Nilendra created the icons of Shihan Mihiranga and the rest of the super stars. Within just four days of tsunami, Sirasa even beat the government by collecting enough relief material to fill twenty trucks. I can go on, but will stop there.
The sad truth is despite all this, Sirasa faces a serious credibility issue. Sadder that it got into this mess by being independent. But let us face the reality. When the society moves with the singular objective of destroying the terrorist menace of three long decades, any slight distraction is taken with fury. Sirasa/Maharaja paid enough I guess, before realising its mistake. Not that I loved to see the only independent channel being another trumpet for the state. But these are small prices to be paid for a serious long term goal.
Sad that Sirasa/Maharaja had to lock horns with Merv too. In retrospective I see all pre planned. Merv, who could not get even 2,000 votes representing one of the biggest electorate, wanted publicity. He might have preferred good publicity, but even bad publicity is never too bad for a politician. Sirasa News team fell for the trap. It was the vehicle Merv used for creating his image. This totally unnecessary tussle did nothing good to Sirasa. In fact it did irreparable damage.
Few months before its Depanama studios were demolished I suggested Sirasa/Maharaja should try an image rebuilding exercise. I gave even a vague guideline. (Frankly, I never thought things were that bad.) I was listened to but no serious action was taken. I don’t say an image rebuilding would have prevented the attack, but at least Sirasa would have received public sympathy. It wasn’t just Sinhalese extremists complained Sirasa burned their own studio to claim insurance.
Now to Akon. I do not know who initiated, but Maharaja Management to was naïve to endorse the event. I am no pop music fan and I don’t know him from Adam. I have never heard him sing. Still I know bringing him to Sri Lanka is plain stupid. Whether we like it or not ours is a predominantly Sinhalese Buddhist, xenophobic society. It is easy to provoke this society. Merv the perv knows that. It just needs a spark to create a bushfire. I am baffled that Sirasa/Maharaja management never thought about the possibility of a backfire. Can they so easily forget the Shahrukh Khan incident?
Mr.Rajamahendran is one of the nicest men I have ever met in my life. He is a professional with several decades of business experience, but never having been part of the Sinhalese Buddhist society he may find it difficult to understand how narrowly and stupidly it sometimes behaves. Post 2003 era is so unpredictable, that things often surprises even me.
Sirasa/Management should have been educated about these pit falls. I am sure Maharaja has enough middle managers capable of doing this. Sadly I do not see that happening.
I still say Sirasa/Maharaja needs a serious image rebuilding exercise. Sirasa/Maharaja needs to win the trust of the majority Sinhalese Buddhists. That will not happen just by employing 99% Sinhalese. The majority should see Sirasa/Maharaja as a friend not foe. This does not mean they have act like extremists. Understanding what masses and offering them few of their choices is more than enough. There is no need to air eulogies six times a day. Adding few carefully planned serious cultural programs would do. They need to win the respect of the viewers to the extent the latter see the value of safeguarding the channel. Otherwise they will not make a voice even Merv brought down the building flat.
I love to see the day Sirasa becomes the best broadcaster in South Asia. Maharaja should focus on this long term business priority instead of fighting with petty politicians on petty issues.
(NB: I use the term ‘Sirasa’ as it is closer to my heart, but I mean the gamut of brands Maharaja/MBC/MTV/Shakthi.)