Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I pick this up from RTM's publication in conjunction of its Silver Jubilee in 1971. If it is a car it certainly would merit the title "antique" today. I found it in my store in the process of Hari Raya cleaning (the Mat Salleh term it spring cleaning) and decided it should find a niche place in my "little" library. Since I am on the subject for this blog I decided to place the most meaningful part of the publication here.

When I joined the department, it was the practiced to submit quarterly report to the head, who likewise will do the same on his division to the higher up. I suppose the Director-General will have his own report. I have been submitting the quarterly report without failed until I was transferred out of "Suara Malaysia" (Voice of Malaysia) the external broadcasts of RTM in 1982. When I went back to the mainstream of the department at Angkasapuri as the Head of "Bahagian Hal Ehwal Awam" (Public Affairs Department) I found that writing the quarterly report was no longer in vogue. I did not make any issue of it because there were too much to do as it was hands-on business on daily basis. Anyway, it was difficult to find time for the chore. As far as I knew none of my colleagues submitted any report like we used to.

I thought it was a good practice as we could reflect on how much we have achieved to meet the objective and target set. The report include the objective, activities, staff list, disbursement of budget of the division, observations and finally suggestions. It was useful for planning.

I don't know why the practice was disbanded and I am not sure if it has been revive after my retirement in 1995, in line with the latest Cabinet decision to scrutinise the activities of the ministers. The nearest I could think of before my retirement was writing the annual performance of individual staff which has its flaws and made many unhappy when they did not get the merit they felt they deserve in term of salary increments.

The good thing about the report is that it finally ended in the annual publication of the department, a useful reference point. Later that too stopped. I suppose it was incorporated as part and parcel of the report and annual publication of the Ministry of Information publish by the Information Department.

Before embarking on the landmark of broadcasting in Malaysia it is pertinent that we look briefly at events leading to the birth of broadcasting and related infrastructure in the world. Due to lack of knowledge of other languages, my only reference is the British publications which claim that the inventor of Radio was Guglielmo Marconi in 1901. I was told the German, French and Japanese has different version of their own. Likewise it is the same for Television which was discovered by John Logie Baird. Japan came to the forefront in the 1970's and the later years with the invention of the Walkman, Compact Disc, DVD, Pocket Telephone, Video Walkman and the like which change the audio-visual scenes completely. Of course there were casualties among the inventions which include the open reel audio tapes, cassette tapes, phonographic records and the video discs which lost its usefulness to the newer inventions. Presently the computer chips are in fashion as it can store up a lot of information including music, movie and such.

The first radio broadcasts begin in 1920. Television first public transmission started in Britain in 1936. Looking at those dates broadcasting is certainly a recent phenomena in the world and our country did not lagged behind. Being a British colony, the developments came fast to the then territories in Malaysia as part and parcel of dissemination of information and propaganda of the colonial rulers.

According to the official publication one the first radio set was imported to Johor in 1921 by a certain Mr A.L.Birch. the Chief Electrical Engineer, who subsequently formed the Johor Wireless Society. Two years later they began broadcasting on 300 metre band. Later Wireless Societies were formed in Singapore, Penang and Kuala Lumpur with their own broadcasts. The one in Kuala Lumpur was the Malayan Wireless Society which started its broadcasts from Petaling Hill in 1930. In Penang the ZHJ station pioneered transmission in Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English on 49.3 metre in 1934, which became the pattern of broadcasting structure in the country.

1st March 1937 saw the official opening of the British Malaya Broadcasting Corporation (BMBC) studios and transmitters at Caldecott Hill in Singapore. In 1940 BMBC was taken over by the Government of the Straits Settlement, and became part of the British Department of Information known as Malaya Broadcasting Corporation. Meantime in Penang, the ZHJ started the first Malayan Overseas Broadcast in Thai. It was only upon the outbreak of World War II that a small make-shift station was set up in Kuala Lumpur by the United Kingdom Ministry of Information and Propaganda.

Then came the Japanese invasion of Malaya on 8 December 1941. Less than 3 months later on 15 February 1942 the British surrendered at their bastion in Singapore. The Japanese quickly set up their own broadcasts from Penang, Melaka, Seremban, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. It ended with their surrender in September 1945. The British Military Authority took over the broadcasting stations in those places and restarted their own broadcasts.

On 1st April 1946 the Department of Broadcasting was set up which existed until today better known as Radio-Television Malaysia, RTM.

The outbreak of militant Communist terrorism in 1948 made it necessary to expand Radio Malaya. Since then expansion has continued each year.

On achieving Merdeka (Independence) on 31st August 1957 the Malay Peninsular became the Independant Federation of Malaya, the pan-Malayan radio service was an anachronism. On 1st January 1959 the new Radio service was inaugurated in Kuala Lumpur, a new service to serve the Federation exclusively. Its broadcasting operations was centred at the Federal House, Kuala Lumpur.

With the formation of  Malaysia on 16th September 1963, Radio Malaya become RADIO MALAYSIA.

It was in November 1966 the Prime Minister Tengku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj laid the foundation of he new National Broadcasting Complex. On 17th February 1968 the Malaysian Broadcasting Centre known as ANGKASAPURI was officially opened by Tengku Abdul Rahman. Television Malaysia officially began its programme from its new operational centre at Wisma TV, Angkasapuri. With that TV Malaysia introduced its Second Network on 17th November 1969.

it was on 1st October 1969 that Radio Malaysia and TV Malaysia was integrated under the Department of Broadcasting, better known as Radio-Television Malaysia RTM.

WISMA RADIO (Radio House) which forms the second phase of the Malaysian Broadcasting Centre Project at Pantai Hill, came under construction in the 1960s. It comprises a six-storey building housing the technical and administration facilities for the Department of Radio and a 1,000 seat auditorium linked by a common entrance hall and foyer.

The Wisma originally has eight continuity suites, five Talks suites, six Drama suites, one Sound Effects suite, two editting suites, several editting cubicles, and another Auditorium which could accommodate 250 audience.

The large 1,000-seat Auditorium is the central facet of the entire radio complex. It provided not only permanent accommodation for the Radio Malaysia Orchestra but also serve as the first sizeable Auditorium of this immediate region that is acoustically treated for musical presentations. Additionally staging facilities was incorporated to permit small theatrical production. Later, with the merger of the two Departments (Radio and Television) to be known as Radio-Television Malaysia RTM and the expansion of the production facilities the Auditorium was transform into a TV studio where numerous never to be forgotten live transmission of musical shows were telecast.

I was part of the staff that moved bodily from Federal House to Wisma Radio way back in mid 1972 as by then I was transferred back to Kuala Lumpur from Penang. Radio operations at Federal House ceased. It was a nostalgic occasion when we have to change our culture and way of life to a much less bustling area in Pantai those days. But then we were proud to be part of history.  

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