Broadcasters/Sri Lanka Country Report

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Currently, all Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) transmissions via its 6 nationwide channels as well as regional channels are operating as usual as none of its transmitting facilities or other installations were affected by the tsunami. However, Sri Lanka urgently requires:

Domestic FM Radios Needed

Frequency band of the radio receivers: 87.5 to 108 MHz VHF/FM. 10,000 receivers are needed (this is an approximate estimate made on the basis that there are over 700 refugee camps)

Contact person:
(Ms) M.S. Rajapakse
Secretary to the Ministry
Ministry of Social Welfare
177, Nawala Road
Colombo 05
Sri Lanka
Tel : + 94 11 2368373
Fax: + 94 11 2369294

Local broadcasters' efforts

Sri Lankan Sinhala and Tamil TV and radio channels, Sirasa TV/FM and Shakthi TV/FM, launched Sirasa-Shakthi Sahana Yaathra on 28 December, to enable the public to aid victims of the tsunami disaster.

Sirasa-Shakthi Sahana Yaathra sent a convoy packed with relief items to affected areas in the south, north and east of Sri Lanka. Volunteer doctors, nurses, school children and foreigners also joined the effort. Another operation began in Colombo on 30 December to provide medical assistance to survivors in southern and eastern Sri Lanka.

Sirasa TV/FM said contributions and support were continuing to pour in to the main collection centre in Colombo and other regional offices around the island.

New radio station established in Hambantota district

A new radio station, Sayura FM, has been established in Hambantota district that targets tsunami-affected communities. The station has a transmission range of 20 kilometres. The radio transmission equipment as well as 5,000 radios for distribution to tsunami-affected residents were donated by a Japanese NGO, BHN Association, to ensure effective communication throughout Hambantota district. The radios are currently being distributed. The station was inaugurated on 21 March by the Government Agent for Hambantota district, M A Piyasena.

(Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

Sri Lankan Telecom

By 2 January 2022 Sri Lanka Telecom has restored the connectivity between most of its affected telephone exchanges and national backbone telecommunication network. However, some individual customers in the affected areas might experience difficulties in obtaining SLT services due to the damages occurred by the floods.

BBC Tamil Service

All regular features programmes and the regular programme format were suspended and given over to the Tsunami disaster, until the 5th January

The BBC’s South India correspondent Sampath Kumar was rushed to the affected coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and other stringers in Sri Lanka were rushed to their respected regions to cover the disaster from the ground.

The Tamil Services partner SLBC could not be contacted as all the telephone lines were down in Colombo so it was decided to transmit the additional transmissions via SW. Feedback was very good as evidenced by the listener’s emails and telephone calls to our Chennai office. - page impressions surged by nearly 800% on the 26/27 December registering nearly 65000 hits each day (the site normally receives approximately 8000 hits per day). The website is still receiving nearly double traffic as normal on most days.

Internews - Sri Lanka

Ivan Sigal – writes from Colombo early January:

"I've recently arrived here and am just beginning my research. I met several private broadcasters today and they have been generally changed their programming to support these efforts, but they haven't gone into detail on it yet. I'll be talking to government media later today, and tomorrow headed south to see what's happened to media there, and what kind of response is in place. One challenge is that in much of the east, where the greatest damage is, there is little in the way of local media.

“There is in general not much that I've seen thus far happening from other support. I've read something about the Australians, but haven't seen evidence of them yet. Of course I've been here less than 48 hours, so I will hopefully know a lot more in the next few days, and will be happy to share it. “Likewise I would be grateful for any information or contacts that you have."

Amateur Radio

After the tsunami hit Sri Lanka on 26 December, Victor Goonetilleke, head of the island's amateur radio society, delivered a short-wave radio set and two 12-volt car batteries to the prime minister's emergency headquarters in Colombo. At the same time, three of his friends drove through the devastation to Hambantota, on the hard-hit south-east coast, where they set up another battery-powered short-wave radio.

For two days, while the military struggled to restore electricity supplies and phone lines, the prime minister was able to use the short-wave link to talk to staff on the ground. Short-wave signals from Sri Lanka, the Andaman Islands and mainland India also helped to spread news of the disaster around the world. The same happened after the 9/11 attacks and last year's hurricanes in the Caribbean.

When phones and mains electricity are down, making the internet unusable, short-wave radio enthusiasts are able to maintain emergency communications.

But not, perhaps, for much longer. Plans to deliver broadband internet signals to homes and businesses down mains electricity cables, rather than telephone lines, could cause interference that will drown out the faint signals from distant short-wave transmitters.

Unshielded cables Power companies in the US and Europe are pressing ahead with the technology, with the aim of setting up in competition to existing phone-based services. The downside is that the packets of internet data pulsing down unshielded mains cables makes the cables behave like aerials that send short-wave interference beaming out over a wide area.

Unless interference of this kind is tightly controlled, it could spell the end for emergency short-wave communications. "A few extra decibels of interference from future networks and I would not have been able to hear the news from amateurs in Sri Lanka, India and the Andaman Islands," says Hilary Claytonsmith of the International Amateur Radio Union's UK branch.

The threat began when the US government gave the go-ahead to broadband over power line (BPL) technology in October. And the European Commission (EC) is close to approving its own version, called power-line communications (PLC). The names are different but the technology is the same: broadband data is sent into people's homes as a high-frequency signal piggybacked on the 50 or 60-hertz mains supply.

Some technical fixes may be in the works though. The BBC, for instance, is developing a PLC modem that makes use of the fact that the short-wave frequencies for broadcast radio change throughout the day, as ionospheric conditions dictate. The BBC modem detects which frequency bands are in use at any one time - and filters them out. Such technology is not part of any PLC or BPL system currently in trials, however.

More details at this page by Barry Fox on the New Scientist ( website

Sri Lanka calls for single authority to coordinate emergency broadcasts

Sri Lankan legislators called on 29 March for a single body to issue warnings on potential natural diasters after broadcasters complained of a lack of information about the 28 March tsunami alert. Thousands of people were urged to evacuate coastal areas in broadcasts late Monday but some media outlets said access to information was haphazard.

The head of the state-run Independent Television Network, Newton Gunaratne, told the lawmakers that after broadcasting warnings for coastal residents to move to higher ground they were unable later on to get information on the status of the possible tsunami. "We could not find any authority who was willing to say it was safe for people to go back," Gunaratne said. "That is why we need a centralised system from where authoritative information can be obtained."

Another state broadcaster said the country's Geological Survey unit had only one telephone and it was impossible to reach them on Monday night.

Mahinda Samarasinghe, chairman of a bipartisan committee, endorsed the call for a unified authority to provide information. "We are looking at what happened yesterday to prepare for any other disaster and that is why we need to look at the shortcomings and problems," Samarasinghe said during a public hearing in parliament.

The top official for media policy said the government will seek a public service clause in licenses issued to broadcasters, requiring uniform disaster alerts. "In the licenses we have issued so far, this problem has not been addressed," said media ministry secretary W. B. Ganegala. "But in the future we will include that. We are working on that."

There are two state-owned and six private television channels and around a dozen private radio stations in Sri Lanka. The lawmakers also criticised the island's cellular and fixed-line phone networks which buckled under heavy call traffic after radio and television announced the potential tsunami threat.