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Evolution from AM radio to Digital TV broadcasting

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Parliamentary Acts on Broadcasting and Telecommunications

by DR JANAKA RATNASIRI

The Cabinet of Ministers (COM) has recently decided to update the Parliamentary Acts on Broadcasting, Rupavahini and Telecommunications and introduce a Bill on establishing a Broadcasting Regulatory Commission. Since, all these are interlinked, it is necessary to take a holistic view of them, taking into consideration new developments such as digital broadcasting. Before that, it would be pertinent to consider the historical development of these services.

USE OF ELECTROMAGNETIC WAVES FOR COMMUNICATION

The Electromagnetic (EM) Spectrum comprising EM waves, extends from high energetic gamma rays, X-Rays and ultra-violet rays on one extreme to low energetic visible, infra-red, microwaves and radio waves on the other extreme. All these are generated naturally by the sun, but almost all of the high energetic radiations get absorbed in the upper atmosphere and only the low energetic radiations are received at ground level. They are also generated by man for various applications like X-Rays, microwaves and radio waves. Out of these, microwaves and radio waves are used for telecommunication purposes, commonly referred to as wireless communication.

EM waves comprise oscillating electric and magnetic fields generated when electrons oscillate either in a plasma or in a conductor. These two fields have their directions perpendicular to each other. They cause radiation of energy in the form of a wave travelling in a direction perpendicular to directions of both electric and magnetic fields. They are characterized by the fact their frequency in Hertz (Hz) and wavelength in metres (m) are inversely proportional to each other with their product equal to the speed of light in vacuum which is 299.8 million m/s. It was James Maxwell who presented the theory of EM waves around 1865 while Gustav Hertz demonstrated their existence in 1887 which earned him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1925.

Hertz’s discovery led to Guglielmo Marconi demonstrating in 1901 that high frequency (HF) waves could be used to send signals across the Atlantic. This caused the birth of the telecommunication industry, for which he received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909. Though HF radio waves were used for long distance communication, the mechanism of their propagation over several thousands of kilo-metres was not understood at that time. Theories of propagation available at that time considered only ground wave propagation which has limited range and line-of-sight propagation which also has limited range along the Earth’s surface. Hence, coverage across the Atlantic was a puzzle at that time.

It was left to Edward Appleton to explain this phenomenon when he discovered in 1927 the existence of the ionosphere, a layer of charged particles lying about 100 km above the ground, which bounces off these radio waves back to the Earth when they are incident on it. Appleton received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1947 for this discovery. It was soon found that radio waves could be used not only for telecommunication purposes, but also for providing voice broadcasting services, known as radio, both within and across countries. HF radio waves remained the only means of long-distance telecommunication as well as broadcasting until the mid-sixties when satellite-based communication took over which came into being, thanks to the vision of Sir Arthur C. Clarke announced in 1945 in the Wireless World Magazine.

 

DEVELOPMENT OF RADIO BROADCASTING SERVICES

Public broadcasting in Sri Lanka commenced in 1925 as Radio Colombo with limited coverage around the city using only MF transmissions. It expanded to a wider coverage about 10 years later and continued till 1949 when its identity was changed to Radio Ceylon. The services were also extended to provide short wave transmissions to provide island-wide coverage though the service was of poor quality due to inherent ionospheric disturbances. Radio Ceylon had one advertisement-free service in each language for many years and added separate commercial services later. Though Radio Ceylon functioned for many years as a semi-government organization under different Ministries from time to time, it lacked a proper legal framework.

To remedy this situation, the Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Act No. 37 of 1966 was passed in Parliament and the CBC was established in 1967 which brought Radio Ceylon to function under it. The Act was amended thrice, to make SLBC both a regulator and a service provider. One amendment was to change its name to Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). Another was for the issue of licenses by the Minister to other persons for the establishment of private broadcasting stations. The amended Act also required an owner of a radio receiver to obtain a licence annually through the Post Office. The Act also requires any person selling, assembling, repairing or renting radio equipment to obtain an annual licence from SLBC to perform that function. Thus, the SLBC performed a dual role of being a service provider and a regulator.

The evolution of radio technology from vacuum tube-based home radio receivers available up to sixties to transistor and integrated circuit based portable radio receivers currently available in the market made it impossible to implement the licensing provision. Hence, this requirement was abolished subsequently, but the provision still remains in the Act. Today, every motor car has a built-in radio receiver and every smart mobile telephone has a built-in radio receiver. Hence, there is a need to amend the SLBC Act to remove this outdated provision.

From the inception, radio broadcasting in Sri Lanka was confined to transmission of amplitude modulated (AM) signals which had limited band-width causing high frequencies in the audio signal getting clipped. This affected the quality of musical programmes severely. These transmissions were in the medium frequency (MF) (or medium waves) for short range coverage and high frequencies (HF) (or short waves) for covering the entire island. The short waves reach the listener after getting reflected from the ionosphere which is a dynamical entity and hence the signals received were not steady and of poor quality. In the sixties, SLBC built several MF transmitters in outstations enabling outstation listeners to have the benefit of receiving quality programmes free of ionospheric disturbances.

In the seventies, the SLBC commenced limited transmissions of signals with frequency modulation (FM) on the very high frequency (VHF) band. These transmissions have higher bandwidth and hence the audio programmes received are of high quality, and also require much less power to transmit. They are also not affected by atmospheric or ionospheric disturbances. The only problem is that their coverage is limited to line-of-sight range. Later the service was extended to provide an island-wide coverage through the installation of several transmitters, most of which are installed on hill-tops to extend the coverage.

Up to the end of the 1980s, the SLBC had the monopoly of operating radio services, but in the nineties and twenties, several private parties, exceeding 20, were issued licences to operate radio services in the FM band. Each service was given two frequencies enabling them to cover the entire island. Most of them, except a few who offered religious programmes, came up with only low quality musical programmes providing requests on payment devoting a major share of air time on advertisements which brought the revenue for their survival. The lack of a suitable mechanism to monitor the quality and content of the programmes aired is a serious shortcoming in the present system.

 

DEVELOPMENT OF TELEVISION BROADCASTING SERVICES

Television (TV) service was introduced to Sri Lanka in 1979 when a private party launched a service voluntarily. Later, it was taken over by the Government. At that time, there was no policy or regulations on establishing TV services in the country. The Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) Act, No. 06 of 1982 was passed under which the SLRC was established with functions of the Corporation to carry on a television broadcasting service within Sri Lanka and to promote and develop that service and maintain high standards in programming in the public interest. The Rupavahini TV service was launched by SLRC using a package gifted by Japan, with the main antenna erected on Mt. Pidurutalagala.

The Act is required to register persons engaged in the production of television programmes for broadcasting; to register persons who carry on the business of importing, selling, manufacturing or assembling television receiving sets; to exercise supervision and control over television programmes broadcast by the Corporation; and to exercise supervision and control over foreign and other television crews, producing television programmes for export, among others.

 

Thus, the SLRC also has a dual role similar to that of SLBC, of being a service provider and a regulator. However, it lacked the powers to implement the provisions to exercise supervision and control on other TV services as described in the last two items given in the previous section. The SLRC Act has provision to issue licences to qualified parties to establish and operate TV stations. Accordingly, 54 private television licenses have been issued licences so far, whereas only 28 telecasting licensees are in operation at present (Cabinet Decision of 04.03.2020).

The Cabinet of Ministers (COM) at its meeting held on 04.01.2021 has decided to amend the SLRC Act to provide for the expansion of its Board of Directors to empower it to implement decisions taken with a view to face the competitive scenario prevailing in the field. No further amendments have been identified even though the Act is totally out of date considering the developments in the field during the last 19 years. There is a need to bring SLRC under the proposed Broadcasting Regulatory Commission to remove the regulatory functions from it and also to remove the provision to possess a licence by a user.

 

ESTABLISHING A TELECOMMUNICATION REGULATORY COMMISSION

 

In early days, the telecommunication services were provided by the Posts and Telecommunication Department, which was later bifurcated into two departments. The government passed the Sri Lanka Telecommunication (SLT) Act No. 25 in 1991 which provided for the establishment of the Sri Lanka Telecommunication Authority (SLTA) which took over the functions of the Telecommunication Department. Among the objectives of the SLTA are to ensure the conservation and proper utilization of the radio frequency spectrum by operators and other organizations and individuals who need to use radio frequencies and to make and enforce compliance with rules to minimize electro-magnetic disturbances produced by electrical apparatus and all unauthorized radio frequency emissions, among others.

The SLT Act was amended by Act No. 27 of 1996 whereby the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) was established in place of SLTA. The amended Act made provisions for receiving complaints from the public and holding public hearings on them and retained all the functions assigned to the SLTA. Its regulatory functions were limited to telecommunication service providers and did not cover the broadcasting of radio or TV services, other than assigning frequencies for them. This is unlike in India where the Telecommunication Authority covered regulation of Broadcasting of Radio and TV services both in terms of technical aspects and quality of programmes.

 

PROPOSAL FOR ESTABLISHING A BROADCASTING REGULATORY COMMISSION

 

The COM at its meeting held on 04.03.2020 having considered the necessity of having a separate institution to regulate the activities of the broadcasting and telecasting media based on a Committee recommendation approved a draft for setting up a ”Broadcasting Regulatory Commission” (BRC), and decided to explore the possibility of amending the SLTRC Act, to enable it to perform the task of the process of issuing Broadcasting and Telecasting Licenses, which were hitherto issued by the SLBC and SLRC, respectively. The objective is to remove the regulatory functions from these two organizations and transfer them to the new Commission.

As early as 1997, a Broadcasting Authority Bill was presented to the Parliament for the same purpose but it was held unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court because it did not give adequate independence to the Authority. Thereafter, a Select Committee of Parliament with representation of all parties was appointed to consider the problem and met on multiple occasions but the matter was left in abeyance. Now, it has resurfaced under a new heading – Broadcasting Regulatory Commission. However, its contents are not available in the public domain, not even in the Govt Printer’s website.

Unlike in early days when broadcasted programmes whether radio or TV were available only as free-to-air services, today with advances in technology, particularly TV programmes, are brought to residences using either physical cables or UHF links or satellite links or through the internet. Since free-to-air services are not available island-wide with acceptable quality, people opt for these services upon payment of a monthly fee. But some satellite links do not provide a satisfactory service when it rains, though the service provider claims it provides tomorrow’s technology today.

There is also an urgent need to exercise some control on the utilizing of TV medium for advertising purposes. While there is a positive aspect whereby a viewer receives information on a new product or service, the repetitive display of the same commercial of well-known consumer products is nothing but an annoyance. The writer believes that during prime time, between almost 50% of air time is devoted for commercials and promotional clips. This is in contrast to India where only 10 min of commercials are allowed for every 60 min of air-time. Hence, there is a need to have a regulatory body to ensure that satisfactory services are provided to subscribers, both in terms of the quality of signal received and the quality of programmes aired.

A notable characteristic of Sri Lanka’s TV service providers is that they seem to be very prudish when it comes to airing cinematographic material intended for adult audience, but of high quality which have received accolades at international events. The operator loses no time in blanking even a momentary kissing scene in them. The proposed BRC could lay some guidelines on presenting quality adult programmes which have already been cleared by the National Censor Board enabling the adult audience to enjoy them without subjecting them to additional censorship by TV operators. Perhaps, such programmes could be limited for airing during late hours of the day when children have gone to bed.

 

TRANSITION FROM ANALOG TV TO DIGITAL TV SYSTEMS

 

There is a global trend to switch from analogue to digital system for television broadcasting as it offers many advantages among which are better spectrum utilization, higher picture and sound quality, accessibility via mobile devices and new business opportunities. Under the sponsorship of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a Roadmap for Transition from Analogue to Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting (DTTB) in Sri Lanka was jointly developed in 2012 by a team of ITU experts from Korea and the National Roadmap Team (NRT) chaired by TRCSL.

Digital TV transmission, though will provide a high-quality service, will result in added expenditure both for the service provider and the viewer. In order to reduce the financial burden for the service provider, NRT proposed to establish a set of 8 common digital transmitters at sites already being used for TV transmission, for sharing by all service providers. They are expected to provide initially simultaneous transmissions both on analog and digital systems, so that a viewer will be able to receive programmes uninterruptedly when switching from analog to digital system.

As a follow up to the above proposal, the GoSL assigned a “Feasibility Study on Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting Network Project” in 2014, to Japan International Cooperation Agency. (). This study recommended setting up of 16 digital transmitters to be managed by a separate body, with the principal tower at Lotus Tower in Colombo. Individual TV services are expected to send their high definition programmes to Lotus Tower by microwave or other links who will in turn broadcast them from the common set of transmitters. By this means, all the TV channels will be received at the same signal strength anywhere in the country.

It was proposed to establish a body to be known as “Digital Broadcast Network Operator” (DBNO) to organize, manage and administer the new system. DBNO is expected to operate and maintain the entire system with the revenue from the operation fees collected from broadcasting stations. The transition to DTTB will result in incurring heavy expenditure by both DBNO and individual service providers, including installing new antenna systems, purchasing digital studio equipment such as cameras, animators, programme mixers etc. all of which could run into Billions of Rupees.

In addition, viewers will have to purchase either set-top-boxes for use with analog receivers or new digital receivers. It may be recalled that with the new development in TV technology, the earlier Cathode-Ray-Tube (CRT) type TV receivers were replaced by slim type LCD/LED TV receivers during the last couple of years. Today, CRT receivers are no longer available in the market. Hence, changing receivers will not be an issue for our viewers, as long as it carries benefits.

In the event the Government decides to adopt the DTTB system, it will be necessary to introduce new laws and regulations to regulate the new DTTB industry, and considering the complexities involved, it is best if a total new Parliament Act is passed, with appropriate amendments to both the SLRC Act and SLT Act. The COM has already decided to amend both these Acts as mentioned above. It is therefore appropriate if the Committee to be appointed for this purpose also be given the mandate to study the desirability of introducing DTTB in Sri Lanka considering costs and benefits as well as viewer preferences and service provider views.

Though the GoSL entered into an agreement with JICA to pursue the matter in 2014, with the change of Government in 2015, the matter was left in abeyance. Under the new Government, the matter is being considered, but no decision has been made as to when it will be implemented and which DTTB standard to adopt, as learned by the writer when he started writing this piece. However, according to a news item telecast in the evening of 19.01.2021, the Japanese Government has offered assistance to Sri Lanka to switch over to DTTB as described in JICA Report issued in 2014, and the Cabinet Spokesman Minister said that Sri Lanka would soon adopt the new system.

 

CONCLUSION

 

Sri Lanka will be completing 100 years of public radio broadcasting in four years hence, and has come a long way going through various stages of development. Initially, there were no separate laws to regulate the industry, and the state-owned service provider used to do that function. This position remains unchanged to date and only recently that the Government has considered establishing separate organizations to provide regulatory function. Only the amendment of SLRC Act and SLT Act are being considered along with setting up a new Commission for regulating broadcasting of radio and television services. Hence, there is a need to consider amending these two Acts together with amending the SLBC Act.

With the proposed introduction of digital television transmission in Sri Lanka as reported by the Cabinet spokesman, the Writer suggests that the amendment of the above three Acts should be taken up along with formulating a new Act to cover Digital Transmission Broadcasting since all four are interlinked, before the actual transition takes place. It is hoped that with the introduction of digital TV transmissions the quality of programme content will also improve concurrently.



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THE DEMOCRATIC PARADOX OF SRI LANKA

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by R.J. de Silva, Attorney-at-law

In the distant past, there were many approaches to running civilizations. Cruel and ruthless dictators perpetrated assault on human rights, with impunity. The best known among these tyrants were ATTILA the HUN (AD 434-453 of present day Hungary ), GENGHIS KHAN ( 1206-1227 in Central Asia and China ), TIMUR ( 1370-1405 of modern Syria, Iran , Afghanistan) and QUEEN MARY alias ‘Bloody Mary’(1553-1558 in England ).

The combination of divine or absolute power and lack of contact with people made Dictators and Autocrats fascinating as well as terrifying. It is unclear if such characters suffered from mental illness as defined by current standards or whether their lives were marked by incidents that made them ruthless.

Hadenius and Teorell ( 2007 ) identified distinct dictatorships in monarchies, military regimes, one party regimes and restricted multiparty regimes. Studies have revealed that many dictatorial regimes, have democratic facades or some functioning democratic institutions, some holding regular elections and some having operational political parties and legislatures.

Dictatorships are a form of government in which all power remains in the hands of one person enjoying unlimited governmental power obtained by force or fraudulent means in sham elections. Dictatorships are often characterized by deaths or killings because of greed, hatred, pride and yearning for power. For instance, Hitler caused millions of deaths of Jews, Pol Pot killed millions of Cambodians to forcibly change its culture and Idi Amin was responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Indians in Uganda.

Autocracy is very similar to a dictatorship. Here too, the supreme power lies in the hands of an individual with some supported by a slavish political party. Autocrats use little or no consultation when making decisions and exercise independent authority over policies and procedures. Their decisions are not subject to any legal restraints. The system suppresses public debate and makes criticism of the government, a criminal offence.

Like in dictatorships, autocracies also use force and punishments to those who disobey the leader’s commands. Autocrats manifest in many ways in despotism, oligarchy and fascism.

In the ideology of benevolent or enlightened despotism (popular in the 18th Century Europe),a absolute monarchs enacted a number of changes in political institutions and enlightened governance. Most of the despots started their careers as “freedom fighters”. Many of them amassed wealth abroad while the world was in denial.

An oligarchy is a form of government where power is in the hands of a small group of elite people, holding wealth or family or military prowess. Oligarchies are where a small minority rules the government and exercise power in corrupt ways. Such governments are frequently ruled by prominent families whose children are raised and coached as oligarchy’s heirs.

Fascism is a political ideology that elevates the nation and race above the individual and advocates a ‘Consolidated Autocratic government’ led by a dictator under strict economic and social regulation while suppressing the opposition. Fascist administrations were seen in Italy’s Fascist Party under Mussolini ( 1925-1945 )and the National Socialist German Worker’s Party ( Nazi Party ) under Adolf Hitler ( 1925-1943). Interestingly, the majority of the modern dictatorial regimes refer to their leaders by a variety of titles such as President, King and Prime Minister.

The 20th and 21st Century dictators and autocrats ruled with tyrannical power and never tolerated dissent. Some of them were VALDIMIR LENIN ( 1917-1924 Russia ), JOSEPH STALIN ( 1924-1953 Russia ), BENITO MUSSOLINI ( 1925-1945 Italy ), ADOLF HITLER ( 1933-1945 Germany ), FRANCISCO FRANCO ( 1939-1975 Spain ), MAO ZEDONG (1949-1976- China ), IDI AMIN (1971-1979 Uganda), AUGUSTO PINOCHET ( 1973- 1990 Chile ), GEOGIS PAPANDUPOULUS ( 1967-1974 Greece ), COL MUAMMER GADAFI ( 1969-2011 Libya ).

Dictator led countries are also associated with severe poverty, repression, decreasing health and life expectancy, famine, poor education and rising mental illnesses. Eight of these brutal and repressive autocracies which caused poverty in their countries were : KIM JONG UN since 2011 ( North Korea- 40% poverty ), NICOLAS MANDURO since 2013 with his Presidency in dispute ( Venezuela – 82% poverty ) , BASHA AL ASSAD since 2020 ( Syria -82% poverty ), PAUL KAGME since March 2000 (Rwanda -39.1% poverty ), RECEP ERDOGAN since 2014 ( an elected President in Turkey- 21.9% poverty ), and NGUEMA MBASOSGO longest standing President in the world since 1979 for 40 years to date ( Equatorial Guinea -76. 8% poverty). Two of them – PIERRE NKURUNZIZA ( Burundi ) and IDRIS DEBBY ( Chad ) died in June 2020 April 2021 leaving 64.6% and 46.7% poverty respectively, in their impoverished countries. However, VADIMIR PUTIN (since 2000 Russia ) and XI JING PING ( since 2013 China ) are leading economic powers, but these two countries have also never tolerated dissent.

It is common to see dictators and autocrats appointing prominent members of armed forces in civilian positions and show disrespect towards the independence of the judiciary and freedom for the media. Such systems and their rulers show no concern for human rights or dissent. For instance in China, when a popular national movement for democracy was precipitated by Chinese youth and students calling for greater accountability, constitutional due process, freedom of the Press, speech and association drawing about one million people to the Tiananman Square and about 400 other cities, China’s Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping violently suppressed the movement in one day on June 4, 1986, similar to what happened in Rathupaswela in Sri Lanka, subsequently.

The suppression of the Pro- Democracy movement by the use of the army was followed by the wide spread arrest and deportation of foreign journalists and the strict control of the Press. In Russia, VADIMIR PUTIN, characterized his rule with endemic corruption, jailing political opponents, intimidating media freedom and free and fair elections. When Russia invaded Ukrain in February 2022, Putin ordered the arrest of thousands of its own citizens for protesting against the war. Tsarist minded Putin decreed that the independent media and journalists will be will be given 15 year jail terms if the cruel destruction of Ukrain’s infrastructure, historical monuments, hospitals and bombing civilian targets are reported to the Russian people.

Dictators and Autocrats are prone to create personality based autocracies surrounded by family members. Family bandyism weakened State infrastructure in Sri Lanka after 2005. The Rajapaksa family based autocracy weakened the State, democratic practices and institutionalized corruption. Family members and lackeys of Iraq and Libyan leaders weakened the State apparatus of Iraq and Libya. The weakened States of Iraq and Libya were such that, it failed to produce nuclear weapons as planned, to meet the threat of Israeli expansion. Saddam Hussain ( Iraq ) appointed his son- in- law and notoriously brutal Hussein Kamil, to fast track the production of nuclear weapons. That resulted in scientists in Iraq intentionally further slowing down the programme and nicknamed it the “unclear power”.

In contrast, the tyrant Gadaffi ( Libya ) was surrounded by ‘yes men’ and female bodyguards and an ego trip as a result of which, had no inclination to produce scientists and engineers for the country capable of dealing with complex technicalities associated with the production of nuclear power.

Dictators and Autocrats are prone to interfere with the sovereignty of other countries. Chinese dictator XI JING PING despite being an economic power, is accused of subtle problematic debt trap diplomacy since 2018 in many poor countries in Africa and Asia ruled by corrupt and mismanaging leaders. PUTIN is facing credible allegations of gross violation of human rights in Ukrain and widespread calls for investigation leading up to a trial for war crimes.

Citizen tired of being oppressed and controlled made widespread demands for democracy and the creation of independent Nation States in Europe. Those revolutions popularly known as the ‘Peoples Spring’ in 1848, brought upheavals in Europe mainly due to the dissatisfaction with monarchies, which were at the helm of each country. The revolution started in Sicily and spread to France, Netherlands, Italy and Hungary, Austrian Empire, German Empire and the whole of Europe. Monarchies were replaced by Republics. Old leaders were forced to grant liberal constitutions.

Caught off guard, aristocracy and their allies plotted to return to power and many leaders of the revolutions went into exile. In the decades after 1848, little had changed. Many historians considered the “People’s Spring” a failure, due to the seemingly lack of permanent structural changes. Karl Marx, disappointed with the bourgeois character of the revolution, expressed the theory of a permanent revolution according to which the proletariat should strengthen democratic bourgeois revolutionary forces, until the proletariat itself was ready to seize power.

The Autumn of Nations between 1981 and 1991 (143 years after the political upheavals in Europe), brought down the former Soviet Union (USSR) which was beset with economic stagnation, mismanagement and excessive dogmatism of the Communist Party. It disintegrated USSR without bloodshed to endorse democratic reforms in their countries. Poland was the first to shrug off communism in 1989 after almost a decade of struggles. It was followed by Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania.

Another wave of pro- democracy uprisings began in Muslim countries such as Morocco, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Bahrain in 2010/2011. It was named the “Arab Spring” and started in December 2010 from Tunisia. However, not all the nations that witnessed such social and political upheaval changed for the better. Some of the very same leaders who fought for democracy in the Muslim world (and in many other parts of the world), presided over the gradual decline of democratic rule in their countries.

In Egypt for example, despite the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, authoritarian rule returned after the controversial election of Morsi in 2012 leading to a coup by his Defence Minister Abdel Fatah El-Sisi in 2013 and he remains in power till today. Libya, since Col Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown violently in October 2011, has remained in a state of civil war with two opposing governments ruling separate regions of the country. The civil war that began in Syria with the Arab Spring has lasted for several years due to ISIS declaring a CALIPHATE governed by Islamic Law in North East of Syria. The ISIS has been effectively defeated, but the oppressive regime of BASHAR AL ASSAD continues with Russian support.

Democracy

In modern times, generations have rebelled against dictatorships and autocrdacy and fought for human rights and respect for the Rule of law. DEMOCRACY is the method of rule most countries have begun to approve. Although democracy is vulnerable it is very resilient. Mahatma Gandhi said: “Democracy and violence go ill together. States that are today minimally democratic have either to become frankly totalitarian or if they must become fully democratic, they must become courageously nonviolent” and Langstone Hughes ( 1902 – 1967 ) wrote “Democracy will not come today, this year, not ever through compromise and fear. I tire so of hearing people say, let’s things take its own course. Tomorrow is another day. I do not need any freedom when I am dead. I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.”

To be continued

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My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment says Beyonce

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Beyonce, shown attending the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, is slated to release a new album in July 2022

Beyonce’s soaring vocals have their place on “Renaissance” but it’s the rhythmic, urgent call to the dance floor that stands out, with a tapestry of influences paying homage to pioneers of funk, soul, r Six years after she shook the culture with her powerful visual album “Lemonade,” Beyonce’s seventh solo studio work is a pulsating, sweaty collection of club tracks aimed at liberating a world consumed by ennui.

Beyonce, the paradigm-shifting music royal whose art has long established her as one of entertainment’s seminal stars, released her hotly anticipated album “Renaissance,” a house-tinged dance record primed for its summer needle drop

Eminently danceable and rife with nods to disco and EDM history — Queen Bey interpolates Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder along with James Brown and the archetypal synth line from “Show Me Love,” the 1990s house smash by Robin S — the 16-song album is poised to reign over the season.

Prior to releasing her opus Beyonce had dropped “Break My Soul” to acclaim, setting the tone for her house revival that highlighted the Black, queer and working-class artists and communities who molded the electronic dance genre, which first developed in Chicago in the 1980s.The megastar has indicated that “Renaissance” is but the first act of three, in a project she said she recorded over the course of three years during the pandemic.

“Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world,” Beyonce on her website.

“It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving,” she continued. “My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking.”

“A place to scream, release, feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration.”

– ‘Expansive listening journey’ –

In the weeks preceding the release of “Renaissance” Beyonce teased the album with the steady stream of glossy, curated portraits of herself that over the past decade have become her signature.But though she’s received wide praise for keeping the world of music videos on the cutting edge, Beyonce put out her latest record sans visuals (they’re promised at a later date.)

In a statement her label Parkwood Entertainment and Columbia Records lent insight into the decision, saying the artist “decided to lead without visuals giving fans the opportunity to be limitless in their expansive listening journey.”

Beyonce’s soaring vocals have their place on “Renaissance” but it’s the rhythmic, urgent call to the dance floor that stands out, with a tapestry of influences paying homage to pioneers of funk, soul, rap, house and disco.

“Unique / That’s what you are /Stilettos kicking vintage crystal off the bar,” she sings on “Alien Superstar,” which samples Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” in a sonic ode to voguing, the stylized house dance that emerged from the Black LGBTQ ballroom culture of the 1960s.

That song closes by sampling a speech from Barbara Ann Teer, who founded Harlem’s National Black Theatre.

On “Virgo’s Groove” Beyonce gets raunchy with an unabashed sex anthem, adding a titular nod to her star sign — the Virgo turns 41 on September 4.Along with a smattering of deep house cuts as well as tributes to gospel, funk and soul, Beyonce’s collaborators on “Renaissance” include Nile Rodgers, Skrillex, Nigerian singer Tems, Grace Jones, Pharrell and, of course, her rap mogul husband Jay-Z.

– Album leaks, Beyhive stings –

Beyonce has long bucked music’s conventional wisdom, and is credited with popularizing the surprise album drop.She later made waves by releasing “Lemonade” — the groundbreaking work that chronicled her own emotional catharsis following infidelity within a generational and racial context — first on cable television, and limiting its streaming availability.

Since “Lemonade” she’s released “Homecoming,” a live album and film featuring footage from her mythic 2018 Coachella performance, as well as the critically acclaimed song “Black Parade” — which dropped amid mass protests ignited by the police murder of George Floyd.

That song saw the megastar, who first gained fame as a member of Destiny’s Child, become the winningest woman ever at the Grammys with 28, and the gala’s most decorated singer.But for all her cultural clout and an indisputable throne in music’s pantheon, Beyonce’s songs have not seen the same commercial dominance as other contemporary global stars — her last number one solo hit was 2008’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”

That’s poised to change with “Renaissance.”

The album’s release saw Queen Bey return to music business as usual, deploying pre-sales, a lead single drop, a tracklist and polished social media fodder.But it wasn’t without a hitch — in the days prior to the official release, the album leaked online.

Bey thanked her hive for waiting, and added that “I appreciate you for calling out anyone that was trying to sneak into the club early.”

“We are going to take our time and Enjoy the music,” the megastar told her fandom. “I love you deep.”–AFP

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Are we to burn borrowed dollars just to cook a meal?

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Eng. Parakrama Jayasinghe

How many of the consumers who opt to use LPG for cooking, realize that they are burning the dollars borrowed with difficulty, just to cook a meal, while the use of LPG hardly brings in any foreign exchange? The reality is that while the country is struggling to raise the dollars even through loans to import adequate supplies of transport fuel, taking loans to import LPG, which will not result in any Forex earnings could hardly be considered ethical or a priority.

The CBSL data below shows the immense amount of dollars drained out of the country in the past years, purely due to the high powered promotions to coerce and trap the consumers to this non sustainable consumption.

With the escalation of world market prices and the depreciation of the rupee , the impact in rupee terms in year 2022, if we are to import the same quantities, would be much greater as estimated. The Governor of the Central Bank has quite rightly stated that

Sri Lanka will have to manage with available dollar inflows, not bridging finance: CB Governor

By Economy Next • Issue #391

However, the attempt by the government appears to be determined to continue this practice at whatever cost and detriment to the economy, to perpetuate a practice foisted on the people by unscrupulous officials, and thereby try and pretend that the gas queues are over. This has been achieved for the present, thanks to a further loan of $ 70 Million from the World Bank, to import 30,000 tons of LPG recently. Perhaps the daily visuals of the gas queues, that the electronic media took pleasure in broadcasting, may also have pushed the government to this short sighted move.

The other side of the coin is that, before the arrival of this load of LPG, while the empty cylinders remained in the queues, the people were absent. No doubt they sought and found alternative means of cooking their meals, albeit with less convenience than using gas. Obviously they would also have been helped in this by the intrepid efforts of many Sri Lankan entrepreneurs who designed and manufactured cooking stoves to use either fuel wood or charcoal, which do not require any dollars.

The novel stoves are yet to be available in adequate numbers in the market, although the manufacturers are running long waiting lists. As such some consumers may have been forced to revert to direct use of fire wood, accepting the disadvantage of smoke and soot. But Sri Lanka has already introduced most acceptable models of cooking stoves to use wood and wood charcoal, devoid of any smoke and soot. These have proved to be acceptable alternatives to the use of gas stoves for the daily cooking needs, even in high rise apartments.

The reality is that the consumers have recognized the fact that the government or the officials cannot be relied upon to provide their essential needs, and their salvation lies in seeking indigenous alternative solutions themselves which have proven to be equally effective.

But shouldn’t this positive change have been noted by the authorities and fostered with the same vigour with which the use of the imported LPG was promoted? What about the media? They diverted their cameras to the petrol and diesel queues, obviously the emerging negative scene of news value.

The officials of the Litro gas company are heard to give assurances of continued supply of LPG in the future, while they admit the loan received is adequate for supplies up to October only. According to their web page their customer base exceeds 4,000,000. The consumption in 2020 was 437,000 tons, purchased at a cost of $ 236 Million. By now it would exceed 450,000 tons annually. How far would the $ 70 Million loan go at present day gas prices? What happens next? Are they hoping to get yet another loan, when the Ministry of Power and Energy is forced to restrict the issue of essential transport fuels to a minimum, due to lack of dollars? Isn’t this a willful deception of the consumers?

Therefore, the discerning consumers are well advised to consider the following points in their decision making for the future.

  • = The import of LPG is possible only through loans which will have to be paid by our children and grandchildren
  • = Continued dependence on LPG is a never ending problem and will need more and more loans with no chance of the LPG used leading to any foreign exchange earnings
  • = The loans taken have to be repaid by the entire country ,while the benefit is enjoyed by only a limited section of the society, which is morally unacceptable
  • = For those fortunate to get even a cylinder of LPG, adopting the already available options of stoves using either charcoal or wood , for the cooking of the main meals , would substantially reduce the monthly expenditure as shown below. This would preserve the LPG cylinder bought with difficulty, to be available for any limited usage in between and for any emergencies for many months
  • = The consumers can be the drivers of the change which would reduce the demand for LPG and thus save the country millions of dollars year after year
  • = This would create a significant indigenous industry whereby the millions of dollars sent out would flow to the local industrialists and rural communities supplying the charcoal and wood. Even a 50% reduction of the imports could result in a local industry worth over Rs 80 Billion annually.

These are indeed practical and worthwhile contributions to resolve a national problem. Are each of us ready to commit to extend the use of our LPG cylinder to last several months, thereby reducing the demand to 50% or even to 25% in the coming year? This should be considered a national duty by all of us.

Just to assuage any fears of deforestation, contrary to popular belief, Sri Lanka already has adequate renewable and sustainable biomass resources formally counted as over 12,000,000 tons annually, contributing to 50% of the total primary energy demand. Simultaneously, a practical program of social reforestation has to be encouraged where the user of charcoal, plants wherever he can, plants trees to compensate for the charcoal he uses. In this way the next generation will also be assured of their own sustainable supply with absolutely no impact on the forest cover. A plant that can be recommended is Gliricidia Sepium among others, which can be harvested in two years, and thereafter every eight months.

(The writer is past president of the Bio Energy Association of Sri Lanka www.bioenergysrilanka.lk
Email: parajayasinghe@gmail.com)

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