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Centre of Executive Professional Development of London honours the man who inspired the drafting of the National Media Act for Sri Lanka, Odiliya Group CEO Dr Piyavi Wijewardene on 17th August 2020

Dr Piyavi Wijewardene was awarded a “Distinguished Service Award” for his pioneering role in setting out a plan for a national media policy in Sri Lanka.

 

In drafting his proposals into a defining act during a time when the nation is facing an economic crisis and a health pandemic amidst global uncertainties is “prescient, courageous as well as strategically vital” concluded the panel at the Centre for Executive and Professional Development in London, CEPD London.

 

The role of broadcasters in any nation is one of great responsibility and this is even more relevant at times of crisis or social, political and economic turbulence. In all situations leaders from politics, business, and civil society as much as ordinary citizens will be required to make informed choices. They will need to do so in relation to public and personal health and safety, maintenance of quality of life and livelihoods, to rebuild institutions and to take measures that help regenerate the economy to benefit society. The draft Act goes on to point out that in a world where news and information is dominated by the internet, social media and media companies all three have obligations to provide reliable, accurate and useful content when reporting during prime time news bulletins or other news broadcasts especially when these are about the economy, technology, arts, and culture.

Dr Piyavi Wijewardene maintains that broadcasters are uniquely and directly in contact through advanced technology as used in their sector to opinion formers from all segments of society. Hence, the need for clear regulatory framework to guide and shape the correct attitudinal development of these viewers and those who are part of their network of contacts.   

“The draft Media Act is educational in intent and socially responsible in its application”, commented CEPD London’s International Advisory Committee Member and Professor of Public Policy Dr Zeljko Sevic.

The proposed Act’s coverage includes, regulation of crime reports, training media on the scientific usage of airtime, tax concessions for media channels, insurance for reporting correspondents, minimum wage for workers, monitory board for survey reports and advertising regulatory indexes.

 

In making the award, CEPD London’s Executive Director Professor Kanes Rajah complimented Dr Wijewardene in  recognition of "first the genesis of the concept to fill the gaping void in this area which has hitherto left it to the discretion of the mass media and its influencers, and second for the proposal for a minimum set of obligatory content and standards which adhere to the Cadbury report on governance as they can apply to national development and to the leading role of the social movement”. He concluded, “it is akin to a paradigm shift in broadcasting and the visual media”.

Left to Right:

Mr. Sanjaya Ranatunga, Prof. H.D Karunaratne, Prof. Kanes Rajah & Dr Piyavi Wijewardene, Professor Zeljko Sevic

Implicit within the draft act is the need for compliance, transparency, and ethical best practice. All these auger well for nation building and for the intellectual development of Sri Lanka’s current and future generations. Many mainstream academics and professionals can now assert themselves in urging Sri Lankan media channels to strengthen their development orientation during prime-time news bulletins. These intellectuals can also become important agents of change in helping the media with this transformational process.

Reacting to this Dr Wijewardene said: "It’s a proud day for myself, my family and for the Odiliya Group. This started out as a service to our great country, and when it gained momentum so quickly it surprised me. Now with many of our important leaders taking an interest I realise it is a serious and most worthwhile cause. However, I am also humbled that international opinion is also very sympathetic to our proposed draft Act which means we are crafting something of value to Sri Lankan society and for the betterment of our communities”.  

Looking ahead he added, "we still have a long way to go but receiving recognition from CEPD London means we are heading in the right direction and that means a lot”.

 

The main contributors to the draft Act are Dr Piyavi Wijewardene, Professor H.D Karunaratne, Attorney at Law Mr. Sanjaya Ranatunga and Professor Kanes Rajah. The draft Act is currently going through the second phase of a nationwide consultation process to gain input from all stakeholder groups.

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