June 3 is not only the anniversary of the Sunday Times, but also of the TV Times and Entertainment which celebrates its 19th anniversary as the Sunday Times marks its 25th.
It was way back in 1993 when I joined the Sunday Times, that editor Sinha Ratnatunga was toying with the idea of having a separate section for entertainment, to give television viewers the full schedule of TV programmes and related news.
The idea was to have a handy magazine with them in front of the good old television set, to which they could refer all through the week.
Quite excited, I started to build contacts with the TV stations, (there were only five including the two state-owned channels, Rupavahini and ITN along with MTV, TNL and ETV) in existence at the time. So we had plenty of space to play around within the 16-page magazine-style TV Guide, Sri Lanka’s very first entertainment and TV guide. Radio programmes and an amateur radio section were included.
The ‘TV Times and Entertainment’ mag was an overnight hit and the first month saw a 5000 jump in sales for the Sunday Times. I was even granted a salary raise of Rs 1000. ‘TV Times and Entertainment’ set a trend. Apart from the small screen, it featured news of the music scene, films, fashion and other entertainment related events. The TV Times logo was soon seen on travelling bags, school bags, key tags and T shirts. Soon all newspapers started to follow suit with similar TV guides.
We were fortunate to have writers of calibre. The film scene was covered by veteran Kumaradasa Wagista popularly known as Wagi, till his demise at the turn of the millennium. Susitha who took the baton from Wagi is still on the run with silver screen stars.
During the early days, there were back-to-back entertainment events sponsored by TVT. We started Sri Lanka’s very first ‘Teenage Sensation’ a teen disco dedicated to teenagers. The Battle of the DJs, Man of the Year, Dance Fiesta 2004/5/6, Miss Tourism Concert (World Pageant), Street Dance Fest, TVT Talent Contest 1999, 2001/2 are some of the outstanding events, TVT has been involved in.
TVT is also a leading information provider on travel and destination news and has featured over 500 newly established hotels and resorts and restaurants around the country.
I owe my thanks to Pathi, Wagi, Dunstan and Emma who have been my staunch support along with the layout guys from the ‘pasting time’ to modern ‘In Design’ time not forgetting Sarath, Priyantha, Sam, Sandun and the rest, who call Wednesday (our deadline day) ‘maha siva rathriya’. Kuru still waits till 2 a.m. until I finish the pages on Wednesday.
A big ‘thank you’ also to our transport section for all their support in my travel around the country.
Since 2010, the TV Times has had to amalgamate with the Mirror Magazine in the new Sunday Times Magazine. To all our TVT fans, who have kept the show going for the past 19 years -keep your fingers crossed; TVT probably will be back in its original form in the near future. Who knows?