By Ranee Mohamed
Violence on TV they say is bad for
society, but what happens when violence,
devastation and destruction come in search
of the TV station?
Three days, 27 finger prints and a solitary
suspect is the sequel to the attack on the
country's award winning entertainment giant
MTV/MBC broadcasting station in Depanama,
If no one is going to do it for the love of
Sirasa, they have to do it for the love of
money. Yet with a couple of fans too
chipping in and increasing the reward to Rs.
75 lakhs, the information is not even
So who did it? That is exactly the question
that is asked by many people not only on the
Sirasa issue, but also on many other issues.
Having given us superstars, dancing stars
and beauty queens, MTV/MBC is now trying to
pick up the pieces to put the pictures back
on our screens, and the colour into the
lives of the masses who depend on Sirasa,
MTV and Shakthi for their entertainment
With a ticket to see a film at a local
cinema costing around Rs.250 plus tax (plus
transport expenses, cost of snacks, and the
hassle of security checkpoints), Sirasa, MTV
and Shakthi have became the sole saviours of
an oppressed nation.
Sought after with a passion
A multi ethnic, multi cultural entertainment
giant, MTV/MBC after approximately 16 years
of service, three television channels, and
four radio channels in three languages,
remains the award winning market leader that
is sought after with a passion.
Yet for MTV/MBC the devastation is too
vast, the heartache too deep and the pieces
too charred and strewn too far, to gather.
For the employees the heartache continues as
the puzzle fails to fall into place, despite
a heavy reward being offered for information
relating to the attack.
"It was around
2.30 a.m on January 6 that about 20 people came in a white
vehicle and destroyed everything in the main
control room at the MTV/MBC broadcasting
station. The gang was heavily armed with T
56 assault rifles, pistols, iron bars and
hand grenades. They overpowered the
security personnel and then entered the
studio," said an employee who shuddered at
the memory of the real life scene of horror
at the television station.
Using explosives, the gang had exploded the
nerve centre of the station - the main
control room and had thereafter proceeded to
destroy every piece of equipment including
glass doors and windows.
For the creators behind MTV/MBC, the news
had come home.
Bled the hearts
Sixteen years, seven channels, three
languages and one network is the reason why
the attack on MTV/MBC has bled the hearts
of the entire nation. Loved and heralded by
the whole country as the No. 1 station, the
market leader, the people's channel, MTV/MBC
is literally 'first' with their news,
entertainment, sports and weather.
In addition, they have also been the first
to make a change in the lives of those sans
the opportunity. Among them are Sirasa
Superstar of Season One, Ajith Bandara and
Superstar of Season Two Pradeep Rangana. It
was Sirasa that gave us entertainment
personality Shihan Mihiranga, a youth who
remained hidden in his home.
With Sirasa Dancing Star, Sirasa showcased
the talent in our country.
Sirasa Kumari showed us the talent that
lies within Sirasa - in fact all of Sirasa's
shows are choc-a-bloc with glamour, planning
excellence and a glitz that we thought
existed only in the developed world.
There are a handful of people behind the
scenes who are responsible for the
professionalism and perfection at MTV/MBC.
Among them is Channel Head Shevaan Daniel.
"We have had very humble beginnings dating
back to 1992 when we began operations with
just the very basic equipment; and over the
years, through sheer hard work we have grown
to become a media segment loved by the
people," observed Daniel.
Source of inspiration
MTV/MBC Channel Head, Shevaan Daniel went on
to say that their greatest source of
inspiration and the driving force is the
Chairman/Managing Director of MTV/MBC Raj
"Our Chairman Raj Rajamahendran is right
here with us. He is not a chairman who
operates with remote control. In fact he
takes the hit 100% of the time and does not
let any of the pressure or harm come on us.
We are truly blessed to be led by him," said
"And we will continue under his relentless
leadership. He has continuously invested in
upgrading our systems. Until the horrendous
attack, we had the most modern broadcasting
studio in the region, not merely in terms
of technical equipment. Our channels are
more than mere television programmes. We
focus strongly on touching the people and
helping them reach their potential," said
Daniel citing programmes such as Sirasa
Superstar, Dancing Star, Sirasa Kumariya and
most importantly Sirasa's news broadcasts
which reach out to every nook and corner of
Hope to be world class
"The belief that drives us forward is our
hope to be world class. We can also give
Sri Lanka talent the opportunity to be world
class and that has been proven by the
amazing talent that has come out through our
channels. The youth who are able to showcase
their abilities and reach dizzying heights
came from the most rural areas of the
country. They might not have had the basic
requirements in life, but with one Sirasa
opportunity they became the world's best.
MTV/MBC goes deeper than glamour when it
comes to social responsibility. Their Sahana
Yathra during the drought in Hambantota and
the tsunami of 2004, are just two examples
of the great leaning that this people's
channel has towards the common man
especially in times of distress and needs.
Director Stations, Asoka Dias, speaking to
The Sunday Leader said the attack caused
more than a momentary disruption though MTV/MBC
staff went through great pain and turmoil to
operate a single channel for their everyday
"The outcome of the attack was that all our
stations stopped functioning at 2.30 a.m.
With the assistance of our engineering and
other staff we were able to salvage the
radio, and by about 6.30 a.m. we began a
single operation for all the channels.
State-of- the-art equipment
"The attackers had shot at and also burnt
down our facilities. Our broadcasting
equipment is expensive and sophisticated and
not those that one can buy over the counter.
They are customised, sophisticated,
state-of- the-art equipment. We installed
digital delivery systems two years ago and
we are always improving our systems to
deliver better. It is not easy to get down
the equipment," lamented Dias.
"We are the market leaders with the most
listened to and best watched channels" said
He went on to say that MTV/MBC is touched by
the overall response of the viewers. "The
text messages and the telephone calls we
receive, and the viewers who call over all
showed us how much we are appreciated. I
want to say that we will bounce back," said
It is times of adversity at the MTV/MBC -
but this adversity has made them stronger.
Having gone through the mill in terms of
attacks, they have time and again come out
with a desire to be the best again.
Surrounded by devastation and debris, the
morale and sense of unity is at its highest.
This is the greatest strength of a people's
channel that knows that the people are with
"MTV/MBC changed my life"
Ajith Bandara, Sirasa Superstar Season
One when contacted by The Sunday Leader
said that he was an unimportant person
doing an insignificant job till he took
part in Sirasa Superstar competition.
"The change in my life is unbelievable,"
"I started singing when I was a little
boy, but then there are hundreds of
little boys in Sri Lanka who can sing.
The difference is that I took part in
Sirasa Superstar and watched the fans
flock around me. Today I am celebrity in
my village in Mawathagama and I am
recognised wherever I go in Colombo.
It was Sirasa that gave me superstar
status long before I was adjudged a
superstar. It is an experience that I
will remember for as long as I live
because my life has changed so much
because of Sirasa.
"The attack on Sirasa is a great
tragedy. I don't know who did it and why
it was done. It breaks my heart to see
the devastation. I cannot bear to look
at it, I cannot bear to think of it,"
said Ajith Bandara.
Celebrity status and a million rupees
Sirasa for Season Two superstar
Sirasa Superstar Season Two saw Pradeep
Rangana a medical student from
Ratnapura being crowned and brought to
celebrity status. After year long
predictions and expectations, the grand
finale of the second season was held at
the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium which was
packed with happy youth from different
parts of the country.
Pradeep emerged the acclaimed super
star after a neck and neck competition
with Surendra Perera from Chilaw.
MTV/MBC's appreciation of Pradeep talent
saw him bag Rs. 1 million and a Honda
City car while runner up Surendra Perera
from Chilaw walked away with Rs.500,000
and a motor cycle.
Shihan Mihirange, Amila Perera,
Surendra Perera, Amila Nadeeshani,
Nadini Premadasa, Dushantha Weeraman,
Hashini Gonagala are but a handful of
youth who enjoy celebrity status in the
country due to their own talent being
nurtured, groomed and relayed to the
Over 50,000 men and women from different
parts of Sri Lanka took part in the
Sirasa Superstar contest and over 24
youth with exceptional dancing talent
were featured in the Sirasa Dancing Star