In the late 1970s, at a time when the SLBC had a broadcasting monopoly, the weekend children’s radio drama ‘Landesi Doopatha’ was a very popular attraction. It was written by Karunatilake Handuwala and Saman Athaudahetti. Its main roles were Jiljona and Vendabona. Handuwala himself gave voice to Jiljona, while Parakrama Perera was Vendabona. Athudahetti was its detective, named Sirina Kelegoda.
One episode narrated how Jiljona and Vendabona overcooked and spoiled an egg omlette. Vendabona described it by giving new words to Prof. Sanath Nandasiri’s popular song ‘Lassana Nam Ney Penenne – Issara Suvandai Denenne’, which went as ‘Bittara Nam Ney Penenne – Pichchena Suvandai Denenne’.
This incident comes to the memory when considering the present plight of Sri Lanka’s first television channel – ITN. Its administration is one spoiled omlette. For that, Athaudahetti does not have a Jiljona or a Vendabona to help him now, but has the onetime SLBC-announcer Chandana Tilakaratne. From SLBC, Tilakaratne joined Lakhanda, from where he went to Hiru, and in the end, Athaudahetti got him to join ITN, by creating a new position as CEO. Previously, ITN had a general manager.
To make this omelette out of ITN, chairman Athaudahetti is assisted by six consultants – Piyadasa Ratnasinghe, Jatila Wellabada and Stanley Tillakaratne to name some of them. Each draws a monthly salary of around 150,000.
By now, ITN’s fixed assets worth has come down from Rs. 400 million to around Rs. 200 m. Being prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s media consultant, Athaudahetti spends most of his time overseas. From the day he became the chairman, he visited ITN less than 20 times. Therefore, CEO Tilakaratne has served as its acting chairman most of the time.
The financial collapse of the institution is such that only three employees are given the monthly distress loan. If new media minister Mangala Samaraweera did not take immediate remedial action, ITN will join SriLankan Airlines, SLTB, Lake House, SLRC and others who have become white elephants that swallow up public money.
Lanka News Web will bring you a detailed report after getting the statistics it has verified and speaking to the chairman and the CEO of ITN.