Media “Freedom” vs Responsibility

The “Reporters Without Borders for Press Freedom” released the World Press Freedom Index 2008 and Sri Lanka ranks at the bottom 10 at the 165th place, barely beating Iran, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Burma, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.

Zimbabwe – where BBC and a host of other international reporters are banned – is ranking at 151. Saudi Arabia, where an individual cannot even take a picture or look at a woman in public ranks above us. United Arab Emirates where journalists and photographers need clearance papers ranks at 69th place. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq offer better press-freedom, according to the report.

I love my country – with all its imperfections. Most people who live here take our freedom for granted – they should live in countries like Saudi Arabia or Russia to understand what we enjoy here in this paradise isle. Journalists here enjoy certain privileges that ordinary tax paying citizens don’t: their “Media ID” is the immunity from traffic violations, curfews, road-blocks and it opens doors that are usually shut for the rest of us. They enjoy the occasional banquet with the President while the rest of get to sit in road blocks cursing, and watch him go whizzing by.

Our media freedom extends beyond what’s painted by the Reporters Without Borders. Most countries and most governments control news from sensitive areas and issues – but we often see our media personnel walking through bomb-blast sites contaminating would-be critical evidence and clues while paying no attention or respect to the authorities. The recent Madrid plane crash site was closed to the media until the investigations were over – the only news footage media received were from the government. If a situation that is not a national threat is handled in such manner in a country which ranks at 36, I wonder what takes us to the bottom of the list.

I for one, totally agree with the government controlling the battle news for the sake of our own forces and security. Matters of national security and military secrets are not for general consumption, the Media must learn to act responsibly understanding the fine line between the greater good and the harm. Publishing a picture of a bomb-laden vehicle is not warning to the general public, but its a warning to the bomber – our media doesn’t seem to understand the “effect” of such simple matters; let alone more complex and sensitive military information. The Ministry of Defence updates the media on a regular basis, and the national television is reporting from the battlefront all we need to know. BBC doesn’t get access to American military sites and operations; they get access to British Forces in Afghanistan. So is Sri Lanka: the national media is in the battlefront with our forces in Kilinochchi; there’s nothing wrong in keeping the independent media personnel out of sight.

So what makes us rank amongst the worst 10?

If it is the media personnel being threatened by certain “dark” elements, they should think again. It is not only the media personnel that gets harassed by the mob, beaten up or thrown in jail in our country, the common man faces the same situation and endures it every day.

If it is the the government not opening the gates of our military bases and sensitive locations to BBC et al, they must place USA at the bottom of the list for not opening up Gitmo bay and hundreds of other sensitive locations.

This is a country where anyone has the freedom to report the truth from anywhere. This is country where one can even publish a newspaper against the government, let alone an article. As a direct result of this media freedom, the market is flooded with menacingly useless radio channels, television stations and newspapers that lack substance and discipline.

Our media personnel need to understand their responsibility in this society. They are the ones who paint our image black or white in the eyes of the international community. People in other countries read what our journalists write about us, its our contribution that creates our image. I think it is the prime responsibility and sole obligation of our media personnel to look at countries like Saudi Arabia or Russia and understand the freedom we enjoy; and ensure that our image internationally is uplifted, not vandalised.


AirTel is Winning without a Fight

In my opinion, Sri Lanka already has too many mobile service providers for a country of its size. Healthy competition is a virtue in an open economy; but as usual we Sri Lankans defy convention. Conventional wisdom says that competition improves the quality of service but in Taprobane, competition brings down the quality of service – along with the rates.

With the AirTel phobia, the established foursome of mobile service providers (Dialog, Mobitel, Tigo and Hutch) are under-cutting each other and are offering some products that make very little marketing sense. Dialog’s 50% Discount for Lifetime, is one classic example. They are encouraging the consumers to go for deals vs Quality of Service – and encouraging the consumers to jump from one to another. The result: Unbelievable offers, unbelievable deals, and hundreds of different “packages” with none delivering a superior – or at least satisfactory – service. Its the same old shit (pardon my French) – only in a new bucket every time. The fairy-tale connection speeds continue, existing only in their promotional leaflets...

No one ever built a sustainable brand or a loyal consumer base by offering cheap deals. Consumers who get fooled by the cheap deals would leave them, as fast and as quickly as they joined them: a cheaper deal from someone else is all they’d need. The foursome are encouraging this “deal-driven” consumer behaviour and what they are not realising is that they are slowly digging their own grave in brand-loyalty. They are allowing room for cannibalism, instead of widening the the consumer base and attracting profits. Sri Lanka already offers one of the cheapest call rates in the world, and further discounts are going to eat in to their (already slim?) bottom-line. Looks like AirTel is already winning, even without a fight.

Offering superior products and services on the other hand, would attract a better consumer base who wouldn’t mind paying a premium for a better quality of service they’d receive. They would stay for longer, pay for longer – in return for a hassle-free and trouble-free service. They’d be loyal to their brand and they’d be the best spokespersons any brand could ever have.

Being the market leader, Dialog doesn’t need to feel threatened by the entry of AirTel. Mobitel shouldn’t be scared either. They should have the confidence to take the higher road and offer what the consumers are aching for: unmatchable superior service. Then, they can shelve the deals and rest easy – for they would know that their customers don’t carry an “extra SIM” from the competitor in their wallet anymore.

I might be the only one complaining about the quality of service – most of us have the habit of “switching” to something better without trying the “fix” the problem at hand. I guess selling a mobile “package” in Sri Lanka is more like selling potatoes at the Sunday Fair – there’s no brand loyalty for potatoes, and looks like there’s no point in talking about it either.


Sri Lanka’s most Powerful brand

Advertising lingo is somewhat confusing to most laymen. I have met brand managers who didn’t know the difference between “Brand Values” and “Brand-Value” – let alone the laymen. That may be so, but there is a new Sri Lankan brand that has been extremely successful both in local and international scene; the ‘brand-team’ has managed to create the most successful, most powerful brand in just over two years!

Its not an FMCG, its not even anything we consume or purchase. Its not a product or service, but something that would easily qualify to be a “company” or a “corporate.”

Most of us don’t even think of it as a brand – but considering the spending on advertising, brand-building, public relations, events and media over the last two years – we would all agree that the most expensive “brand” in the country today is none other than “Mahinda” – yes, the President Mahinda Rajapakse.

No one has adored more full-page-colour advertisements in newspapers than “Mahinda” in the recent past.
On outdoor circuits, “Mahinda” easily beats the greatest locations and biggest spenders.
On public relations spending, “Mahinda” easily beats the biggest brands.
His typical budget for a single event could easily exceed most of our annual budgets.
He’s got the largest battalion of “brand-ambassadors” promoting his image from Hambantota to the Parliament: the latest addition to the well-rehabilitated and gel-groomed Sinhala terrorist is the former Tamil terrorist from the Wanni jungles.
His brand adorns t-shirts, caps, walls, and all around us – he even almost made it to an airline that carries the “Mahinda Lotus” in its wings.
Beyond the box, keeping in line with the traditional street-performer – he’s got a court jester too in Mervin Silva...
There is not a single communication channel this brand has not explored or ignored.
The brand team knows the power of Word-of-Mouth; and he’s got the biggest number of mouth-pieces harping his good.

Talk of brand “influence” and we all know how that works in the island. Leave aside the physical influence, even in terms of design, his influence has crept into corporates including Sri Lankan Airlines templates too, where we begin to see the “Mahinda Wave and the Lotus” at the bottom of the page..! The whole country – including the fashion-savvy (or so I thought) Colombo crowd – seems to imitate his shawl around the neck...

No other Sri Lankan brand has been successful in international image building as “Mahinda.” His international profile makes him look like the savior of our times. On World Economic Forum, “Mahinda” has been advocating peaceful resolution of the Middle East situation as the President of Sri Lankan Committee for Solidarity with Palestine over the past 25 years, WOW! All facts, well presented – a true testimony for successful image building. The result? “Mahinda” gets invited for global forums and speeches and his brand team is doing a fantastic job. I’m sure the team must be eyeing the Nobel Peace Prize – if only “Mahinda” manages to “liberate” the suffering Tamil community from the grip of terror...

Kudos to brand building! Even though I do not agree with MR’s “Brand Values,” I sure cannot ignore the “Brand-Value” “Mahinda” has gained in such a short period of time.


The World doesn’t need a Patronising Grandpa

Colin Powell – former US Secretary of State and good friend of Republican Candidate John McCain – endorses the Democratic Candidate Barack Obama. This is an eye-opener for those who thought a retired military man is the ideal protector of American freedom, the American dream and the American soil.

We have seen the war and we have felt it in our hearts. War or the military might is not the answer. This is not an age where guns and mighty power resolves issues, this is not an age when patronising bullies take leadership. This is beyond the information age where dialogue is mightier than the gun; this is the age of the younger, more realistic new generation leaders. America today is witnessing a new awakening amongst the under 30 voters thanks to Obama, as they are increasingly becoming confident of their political power. Over 44 million 18–29 year-old voters are rallying up this time, with a clear 20% lead for the democratic candidate. Obama has also explored new frontiers in fund-raising successfully, by taking advantage of the new interactive media – talking a language that young voters understand.

Leaving aside McCain playing day-to-day tunes and tactical ads (and Palin swinging to Saturday Night Live tunes) vs Obama’s well-thought out strategic campaign; the world has seen the best of mafioso and his lipstick hockey mom who doesn’t even know what newspapers she reads. McCain seems to think Muslims are “less-American than the other Americans” and his unethical advertising is irritating. McCain would be the ideal choice for an ignorant and arrogant America that breeds separatism and the result could spell more hatred and more trouble for America. Obama, on the other hand, seems to be someone who feels the heartbeat of the new generation across the globe.

This is 21st century, where inclusive leadership style with substance and style could resolve issues – this is not the slave-age where the guns do the talking. Colin Powell – being a more experienced and respected soldier as well as a great statesman and diplomat – endorsing Obama is a direct signal to the Americans that choosing McCain+Palin would be a huge mistake. McCain as President could spell disaster for the rest of the world; and for the sake of nations like Sri Lanka, I sincerely hope Obama becomes the next American President. McCain might be the leader some Americans want, but Obama is the World Leader the rest of the world wants.

My vote goes to Barack Obama, without a doubt. Only a vintage wine would get my vote, not a vintage politician.


“Hello, Gorgeous” and the Top 100 Movie Quotes

On the occasion of their 100 Year Anniversary, the American Film Institute revealed the top 100 movie quotes of all time in a three-hour special event. A jury of 1,500 film artists, critics and historians voted to select the top 100 from 400 quotes shortlisted. Clark Gable in celebrated civil war epic Gone With the Wind spoke the words “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn...” that became the most memorable movie quote of all time.
  1. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
    Gone with the Wind – 1939

  2. I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.
    The Godfather – 1972

  3. You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.
    On The Waterfront – 1954

  4. Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.
    The Wizard of Oz – 1939

  5. Here’s looking at you, kid.
    Casablanca – 1942

  6. Go ahead, make my day.
    Sudden Impact – 1983

  7. All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.
    Sunset Blvd. – 1950

  8. May the Force be with you.
    Star Wars – 1977

  9. Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.
    All About Eve – 1950

  10. You talking to me?
    Taxi Driver – 1976

  11. What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.
    Cool Hand Luke – 1967

  12. I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
    Apocalypse Now – 1979

  13. Love means never having to say you’re sorry.
    Love Story – 1970

  14. The stuff that dreams are made of.
    The Maltese Falcon – 1941

  15. E.T. phone home.
    E.T. The Extraterrestrial – 1982

  16. They call me Mister Tibbs!
    In The Heat of the Night – 1967

  17. Rosebud.
    Citizen Kane – 1941

  18. Made it, Ma! Top of the world!
    White Heat – 1949

  19. I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!
    Network – 1976

  20. Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
    Casablanca – 1942

  21. A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
    The Silence Of The Lambs – 1991

  22. Bond. James Bond.
    Dr. NO – 1962

  23. There’s no place like home.
    The Wizard of Oz – 1939

  24. I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.
    Sunset Blvd. – 1950

  25. Show me the money!
    Jerry Maguire – 1996

  26. Why don’t you come up sometime and see me?
    She Done Him Wrong – 1933

  27. I’m walking here! I’m walking here!
    Midnight Cowboy – 1969

  28. Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’
    Casablanca – 1942

  29. You can’t handle the truth!
    A Few Good Men – 1992

  30. I want to be alone.
    Grand Hotel – 1932

  31. After all, tomorrow is another day!
    Gone With The Wind – 1939

  32. Round up the usual suspects.
    Casablanca – 1942

  33. I’ll have what she’s having.
    When Harry Met Sally – 1989

  34. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.
    To Have And Have Not – 1944

  35. You’re gonna need a bigger boat.
    Jaws – 1975

  36. Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!
    The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre – 1948

  37. I’ll be back.
    The Terminator – 1984

  38. Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
    The Pride of the Yankees – 1942

  39. If you build it, he will come.
    Field of Dreams – 1989

  40. Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.
    Forrest Gump – 1994

  41. We rob banks.
    Bonnie And Clyde – 1967

  42. Plastics.
    The Graduate – 1967

  43. We’ll always have Paris.
    Casablanca – 1942

  44. I see dead people.
    The Sixth Sense – 1999

  45. Stella! Hey, Stella!
    A Streetcar Named Desire – 1951

  46. Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.
    Now, Voyager – 1942

  47. Shane. Shane. Come back!
    Shane – 1953

  48. Well, nobody’s perfect.
    Some Like It Hot – 1959

  49. It’s alive! It’s alive!
    Frankenstein – 1931

  50. Houston, we have a problem.
    Apollo 13 – 1995

  51. You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?
    Dirty Harry – 1971

  52. You had me at “hello.”
    Jerry Maguire – 1996

  53. One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know.
    Animal Crackers – 1930

  54. There’s no crying in baseball!
    A League Of Their Own – 1992

  55. La-dee-da, la-dee-da.
    Annie Hall – 1977

  56. A boy’s best friend is his mother.
    Psycho – 1960

  57. Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.
    Wall Street – 1987

  58. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.
    The Godfather II – 1974

  59. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.
    Gone With The Wind – 1939

  60. Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!
    Sons of The Desert – 1933

  61. Say “hello” to my little friend!
    Scarface – 1983

  62. What a dump.
    Beyond The Forest – 1949

  63. Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?
    The Graduate – 1967

  64. Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!
    Dr. Strangelove – 1964

  65. Elementary, my dear Watson.
    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – 1939

  66. Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape.
    Planet of the Apes – 1968

  67. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.
    Casablanca – 1942

  68. Here’s Johnny!
    The Shining – 1980

  69. They’re here!
    Poltergeist – 1982

  70. Is it safe?
    Marathon Man – 1976

  71. Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!
    The Jazz Singer – 1927

  72. No wire hangers, ever!
    Mommie Dearest – 1981

  73. Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?
    Little Caesar – 1930

  74. Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.
    Chinatown – 1974

  75. I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
    A Streetcar Named Desire – 1951

  76. Hasta la vista, baby.
    Terminator 2: Judgment Day – 1991

  77. Soylent Green is people!
    Soylent Green – 1973

  78. Open the pod bay doors, Hal.
    2001: A Space Odyssey – 1968

  79. Striker: Surely you can’t be serious.
    Rumack: I am serious…and don’t call me Shirley.
    Airplane! – 1980

  80. Yo, Adrian!
    Rocky – 1976

  81. Hello, gorgeous.
    Funny Girl – 1968

  82. Toga! Toga!
    National Lampoon's Animal House – 1978

  83. Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make.
    Dracula – 1931

  84. Oh, no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.
    King Kong – 1933

  85. My precious.
    The Lord Of The Rings: Two Towers – 2002

  86. Attica! Attica!
    Dog Day Afternoon – 1975

  87. Sawyer, you’re going out a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!
    42nd Street – 1933

  88. Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armor. Don’t you forget it. You’re going to get back on that horse, and I’m going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we’re gonna go, go, go!
    On Golden Pond – 1981

  89. Tell ’em to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper.
    Knute Rockne All American – 1940

  90. A martini. Shaken, not stirred.
    Goldfinger – 1964

  91. Who’s on first.
    The Naughty Nineties – 1945

  92. Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac… It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole!
    Caddyshack – 1980

  93. Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!
    Auntie Mame – 1958

  94. I feel the need — the need for speed!
    Top Gun – 1986

  95. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.
    Dead Poets Society – 1989

  96. Snap out of it!
    Moonstruck – 1987

  97. My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you.
    Yankee Doodle Dandy – 1942

  98. Nobody puts Baby in a corner.
    Dirty Dancing – 1987

  99. I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!
    The Wizard of Oz – 1939

  100. I’m king of the world!
    Titanic – 1997

© 2008 American Film Institute


Mobitel + Huawei E220 and the Mac

Mac users are the odd ones. They are the ones who are different, and more often than not, pay a little price for being different. This little note will hopefully help those Sri Lankan Mac Users who are reluctant to take advantage of Mobitel’s M3 broadband offer.

Ask a Mobitel Sales Person if the Huawei E220 HSPDA USB Modem compatible with Mac OSX Leopard and they would draw a blank. The promo-literature does not mention compatibility and the self-intallation disk that’s included in the modem does NOT carry a Mac Installation. The clueless and helpless sales personnel at Mobitel would, at best, ask you to bring your “machine” so that their tech guys could check it out to see if it works. That’s bad news if you are interested in using the modem with your G4 or G5 desktop.

Well, here’s the good news: The Huawei E220 HSPDA USB modem works perfectly well with the Mac. It works like a charm with my Intel-based MacBook pro and it is also compatible with the old Power-PC based Macs – I have connected it to my old G4 tower at home.

The only problem is in installation. Since there is no compatible software/drivers offered by Mobitel or Huawei, Mac users have to do a bit of homework themselves searching all over the net. The best place to look for the required installation is here; where you’ll find easy-to-understand, step-by-step instructions. Please note that all the parameters remain the same, including the dial-up number – just follow the instructions.

I haven’t experienced any notable issues with Mobitel + Huawei E220 combination, except for a time-out error when downloading large streams. That too, I think happens when the browser is idle while downloading, but that’s my guess. Occasionally, you might need to remove and re-connect the USB, if it has terminated due to lack of network activity.

Is it as good as SLT fixed-line broadband? Nope. SLT is broadband is marginally better. Given the advantage of being truly mobile (out of home), I would recommend this for Mac users on the go. How does this stand-up against the Dialog offer – I haven’t tried that yet; and I do not think that I would either. Also, Mobitel does not offer an “Unlimited” Package.

Well, Good luck and happy “Mobile” surfing!


Wi-Fi Enabled; Consumers Disabled!

I have a laptop that’s Wi-Fi enabled. I can sit in a café in Singapore, use my Dialog account and surf the net – no problems, no hassles and no issues. The cost gets added to the roaming bill. Convenience is key; and being able to go online from anywhere is my purpose of carrying a Wi-Fi device with me. The purpose of Wi-Fi is to provide easy and convenient wireless access to the digital world – eliminating the physical restraints and the hassle.

Let’s forget Singapore for a moment. I travel within my beautiful island quite frequently – and, more often than not, fail to use the Wi-Fi facilities available in most hotspots. The reason: the services are offered by different service providers – and they all seem to ignore the consumers who are not their customers. If one seeks to be truly mobile in Sri Lanka using Wi-Fi hotspots, they must have accounts with all the service providers – or has to go through the hassle of getting temporary connections each and every time they’d want to surf the net. Instead of opening up the digital world and breaking the barriers, the Sri Lankan Wi-Fi service providers have created more boundaries, more hassles and more restrictions – and they lost the very meaning, and the very purpose of Wireless Fidelity services.

There should be a unitary system that allows a Wi-Fi user to log in from anywhere, immaterial of the SIM Card he carries in his pocket. The service providers should work out the “roaming” and “billing” part, that should not be the consumer’s problem. If I could surf from Starbucks in Singapore with my Dialog account, I’m wondering why couldn’t I surf from a Suntel hotspot – right here in Colombo..!

Aren’t we – the islanders of paradise – quite capable of complicating simple things in life?

Is it another sign of “misguided-education” taking over “common sense” or is it the marketing geniuses forgetting the consumer-convenience? I wonder... and fail to understand.