New meters will monitor ‘patriotic TV watching’ by citizens
By Banyan News Reporters
Colombo, 15 January 2009: The television remote controller poses a serious threat to the country’s national security, the government has determined. A new law will soon be introduced to register and regulate this electronic item.
The ubiquitous gadget helps unpatriotic persons to change the channel when matters of national importance are being broadcast on state TV channels. This, in turn, deprives the government its rightful opportunity to address and inform all its citizens, security advisors have pointed out.
There is also the possibility that terrorists or their sympathisers could use remote controller as a ‘weapon of mass distraction’, to keep citizens uninformed or misinformed about the government’s resounding military victories in the North.
“As a responsible government firmly believing in our right to inform the people, we must ensure that every citizen is reached. At this turning point in our history, we cannot allow subversive technologies to undermine the great strides we are making against terrorism, corruption and poverty,” said Lackeyman Horagulla, head of the National Centre for Media Security.
The new law, to be brought in under Emergency Regulations, will require all households to register their remote controllers with the nearest police station. At registration, a microchip is to be embedded in each unit with a unique code number. With remote electronic surveillance, the authorities will be able to determine which TV channel is being watched in any household at any given time, and how often channels are changed.
“We want the process to be as non-intrusive as possible,” Mr Horagulla explained. “We have no wish to enter any houses and disturb people. We just want to make sure that everyone watches Rupavahini or ITN or at least the other patriotic channels when critical information is being transmitted. We must educate our people.”
The government had earlier considered acquiring sophisticated equipment that can over-ride any terrestrial TV channel and forcibly impose state-sanctioned content. However, this course of action was not pursued as it could lead to protests of interference and was likely to be challenged in Supreme Court by some private channels.
Monitoring household patterns of channel surfing would help achieve the same result at a much lower cost and with no legal complications, security analysts noted. State TV channels would soon be showing guidelines on patriotic television viewing, especially when news and current affairs programming is being broadcast.
Senior officials at Rupavahini and ITN denied that they recommended this action due to their consistently dismal audience ratings and declining advertising revenue. “We are proud to be the nation’s official channels and do not consider we have any real competition in being the patriotic voice of our political masters,” they added.
They privately acknowledged, however, that all their attempts to discredit their main rival channel had failed to work. Over 40 per cent of the entire country’s TV audience remains fiercely loyal to the People’s Channel. This includes many of its vocal (‘patriotic’) critics who watch it secretly.