Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC)

Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC), known locally as Jathika Rupavahini, is the national television chain of Sri Lanka. SLRC operates three channels: Rupavahini, the main channel, in Sinhala; Channel Eye, in English; and Nethra TV in the Tamil language.

Media assets

Television: Rupavahini, Channel Eye, Nethra TV

State Media Matrix Typology: Captured Public/State-Managed (CaPu)

Ownership and governance

SLRC was established through Act No. 6 of 1982 (that has become known as the SLRC Act) as a state owned corporation subordinate to the Ministry of Mass Media. The company’s main governing body is a board of seven members that used to be appointed by the minister of mass media. In autumn 2019, arguing that the minister of media had too much power in SLRC, the President moved the broadcaster from the Ministry of Mass Media to the Defence Ministry, which is under presidential powers. The outlet is still listed on the Ministry of Mass Media website though. The current administration announced plans of media reforms, which will include, among other things, a series of changes in the SLRC’s governance. The company is expected, as part of these reforms, to become accountable to a parliamentary commission.

In early 2022, Sonala Gunawardana was appointed chairman of the SLRC. He came to this position from the  National Library of Sri Lanka where he worked as a chairman.

Source of funding and budget

SLRC generates income from the sale of airtime for sponsored programs and commercials. It also receives a government grant every year. In 2020, the corporation operated with a total budget of LKR 1.34bn (US$ 7.2m). The state funding accounted for less than 23% of that, according to the latest annual report of the Ministry of Finance.

Editorial independence

Through the power of appointing the main governing body at SLRC, the government has cemented its control over the editorial coverage of SLRC, according to local experts and journalists.In February 2022, the newly appointed chairman of SLRC Sonala Gunawardana said that the corporation’s management aims to change the public perception of SLRC as a “government’s trumpet.” He didn’t explain how he plans to achieve that.

No domestic statute and no independent assessment or oversight mechanism that would validate SLRC’s editorial independence have been identified.

September 2023