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Sri Lanka budget hits Rajapaksa family-run sports channel

Press Trust of India  |  Colombo 

Sri Lanka's new government has slapped a one-time tax of Rs 1 billion on the only sports television channel in the country which is owned by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa's son.

Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake slapped the tax on Carlton Sports Network (CSN), owned by Yoshitha Rajapaksa, saying the sports channel has not paid a single penny to the government, since its inception.

It has been alleged that CSN was favoured by the Rajapaksa regime which awarded it the exclusive broadcast rights of several sports fixtures including cricket.

Cricket broadcast rights had been the monopoly of state TV Rupavahini until the advent of CSN.

The Rajapaksa government had transferred the sports broadcast rights to CSN by a cabinet decision with no open tender or any known competitive bidding process.

After Rajapaksa's defeat in this month's presidential election, the new government of President Maithripala Sirisena launched a probe into the rights deal.

Karunanayake impose the tax yesterday in the budget unveiled yesterday.

The interim budget, overseen by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, was presented in the parliament to implement the government's proposals as outlined in its manifesto.

During his budget speech, Karunanayake accused the Rajapaksa administration of being extravagant.

Karunanayake said a levy of Rs 1 billion would be charged from sports channels operating island-wide with more than five transmitting locations, which analysts believe is targeted at CSN.

First Published: Fri, January 30 2015. 14:20 IST