Radio demands personality upgrade

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(‘Contemporary youth want a lot out of electronic media’  says Kapila Gamage ) (‘Contemporary youth want a lot out of electronic media’ says Kapila Gamage ) Pic by Chandana Wijesinghe

Interview with media personality Kapila M Gamage

“Today most radio channels cater to an audience of inactive listeners,” said veteran broadcaster Kapila M Gamage in an interview with The Nation. He said the situation of the radio media is quite pathetic today that private radio channels are highly commercialized where the government radio institutions are highly politicized. “All what private channels do is earn money. All what government channels do is to secure the power of the existing regime. There seems to be no interest towards the listener,” he stressed.  He pointed out that these are consequences of weaknesses in the Broadcasting Act where the media institution owners can solely decide what is presented. Gamage emphasized that Right to Information Act becomes impractical in such a situation. “For this act to be properly implemented, media institutions must become independent,” he opined.

Gamage is also a writer and poet.  As an experienced journalist, he makes his contributions as trainer and lecturer at selected higher educational institutes and universities while working as a creative script writer. He received his formal education from Dharmaraja College, Kandy and did his undergraduate studies at Peradeniya University. After completing his degree, he received the opportunity to join the regional services arm of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.

Speaking about his experiences in Giradurukotte and Anudadhapura in the Mahaweli Community Radio, he said that he feels fortunate to have received this opportunity since working with villagers under this project brought him immense satisfaction and joy. Simultaneously he expressed his grief that it is unfortunate that the community radio projects simply vanished after the foreign funding periods.

“Community radios shared knowledge among villagers about agriculture and related issues. Although we handled the station, everything broadcast was what they wanted; their community requests and discussions to resolve the issues related to their work,” he explained. “Unfortunately no one wanted to continue the program once the funding period was over.  Or else community radios are suitable, even today,” he added.  He had worked for this project from 1986 to 1999. “In many Asian regions the community radio is a powerful concept for different communities. These radios play a major role in the development of the country and the community itself,” Gamage further said.

Leaving the Radio project he worked as a media coordinator for several ministries. He also condemned how media personals get labeled as political henchmen in the country and don’t get to work in their fullest capacity, at all times, under different regimes. He also mentioned that he himself has been a victim to this political set-up several times.

Although he is not involved with a radio channel now, he is concerned about the field. He said he is always keeping an eye on the world’s latest trends and changes in the field. Gamage completed his postgraduate diploma in mass communication in Sri Jayawardenapura University.  This course required completion of a thesis related to the field. Meanwhile, he received a scholarship to Malaysia to study about radio productions for youth. The knowledge he acquired there, inspired him to write his thesis about the same subject to complete his diploma. Later, Prof Tissa Kariyawasam encouraged him to publish his thesis in a book.  Following this encouragement he published his book ‘Tharuna Sanniwedakaya saha Guwanwiduliya’ (Young broadcaster and the Radio).

Speaking further about youth in contemporary society and their relationship with the radio, he pointed out that the majority of the younger generation has misunderstood the radio as a tool mostly used to listen to songs.  Yet, he said, if motivated the youth will speak about what they really want to hear. “I received an opportunity to speak to a group of young plantation workers recently. Out of curiosity I asked them whether they listen to the radio and what channels they listen to. They said that they listen to the radio channels which have the best playlist of songs,” he said. He added that they had said that they wanted radio channels to have more discussion programs related to their issues. This is the answer he had received when he asked what they wanted to listen to via radio if they were given a chance to select programs. “What we see on the surface is not always what it is. Similarly, although it seems like contemporary youth admires only fast-paced music, they do want a lot out of electronic media.”

Gamage reminisced that he started writing poetry from his school days. He paid his respect to the late veteran journalist Dharmasiri Gamage for supporting writers outside Colombo and help them publish their creations. Gamage’s debut poetry collection was a joint effort – Asikkithayage Sihinaya with Chandrarathna Bandara, Arjuna Krishantha and Chulabhaya Shantha Kumara Herath.  His first solo poetry collection Deviyanta Paligasu Gahaniya was published in early 1980s and Soda Paluwa saha Thawath Katha was his debut short story collection. His latest poetry collections were Hemantha Nidrawa and Wisiri Walakulu.  He also mentioned his friend Terrance de Silva who designed the cover for Hemantha Nidrawa. This cover was nominated as one of the best covers at the State Literary Festival. 

He hopes to publish another two books- poetry collection and a short story collection in the near future. He said that he is currently working on another mass media guide focused on dos and donts. He believes that Sri Lankan media doesn’t have many proper guides written in Sinhala. He opined that this need can also be the reason for the distinction in standards of English media and Sinhala media. According to him, Tamil media also experiences a situation similar to Sinhala media.

Gamage admired the active contribution made by youth to literature on the internet. He views online poetry and blog writing as an effective way of letting out the frustrations of being rejected by mainstream media. “Online poetry being good or bad shouldn’t be criticized. The effort they put to write or match four lines has to be appreciated,” he said. He mentioned that it is the internet which inspired him to write again in a period where writing was abandoned.  He also brought up Facebook group Poth Kiyawana Aya as an example for where people are allowed to have discussion about poetry or books freely in an era where mainstream media reduces the time allocated to literature discussion programs.

Last modified on Monday, 30 March 2015 13:04

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