Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I suppose soon in the near future the national broadcaster RTM and the Ministry of Information, Communication, Culture and Arts will declare April 1st as "HARI PENYIARAN" (Broadcasters Day) in line with the other "Hari" that are celebrated annually by certain sectors in the country as a landmark. Knowing the penchant of the current Minister of Information, Communication, Culture and Arts, Dato Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim for grandiose occasion where he can eloquent his prowess in delivering beautifully worded oratory lace with legalistic terminology, the occasion should be on the horizon before he move on.

Some mischievous people might smile on hearing the date chosen, being "Fool Day". I suppose when the colonial power of that time decided to set up the Department of Broadcasting in the then Malaya on April 1st 1946, they must have given a long thought on the significant. One can assume they may think the end users were not as "masterful" as them. I will take it positively and assume they wanted to erase the connotation associated with the date as the Department's main role was to disseminate credible news and information beside providing entertainment.

That was in Malaya which included Singapore. Being a bustling city and a key entrepot Singapore was naturally made the centre of broadcasting in the pan-Malayan department administered from there. The staff was small and the equipment, most of it ex-British Services surplus, was limited.

Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Melaka were only in insignificant support with small outfit to take care of the daily business. The technical staff far outnumbered the front broadcasters. The east coast was neglected. Radio broadcast then was mostly on shortwave bands which the power that be at that time thought was sufficient for the "hungry" listeners. Anyway the infrastructure was still at its infancy and concentrated mostly in the urban areas. So for those who can afford it, its the battery (car) powered radio that became the star attraction in the houses. Community listening was the order of the day. So relationships were very cordial among the people.


Meanwhile on the island of Borneo radio broadcasting was brought in quite early by the British to its colonial territories there. In 1952 experimental broadcasting was introduced to the then British North Borneo (present day Sabah) by their Departments of Information and Broadcasting and Posts and Telegraphs, with broadcasts mainly of news and announcements. The station broadcast in short wave and medium wave bands using 5 KW and 250 W transmitters respectively. The programmes were in English, Malay and Chinese. By November 1955 Radio Sabah was officially inaugurated, and the following November it introduced the Kadazan Programmes. Six years later the broadcasts in Murut went on the air on 5th November 1962. Broadcasting hours have increased from just 40 hours a week in 1955 to 126 hours in 1970. Programmes are now broadcast in seven languages including English, Malay , Chinese, Kadazan, Murut, Bajau (introduced on 3rd March 1967) and Indonesian. In Jun 1963 Radio Sabah moved into Radio House in Tuaran Road, leaving behind its operations in Bruce Hill, Kota Kinabalu. It began its broadcast of the Armed Forces programme on 3rd August 1969.

Radio Sabah changed its name to Radio Malaysia Sabah when Malaysia came into being in September, 1963. The Department then became federalised and came under the  Federal Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. On August 11th 1968 a receiving station with rhombic aerials beamed towards the Kajang transmitters were brought into operation to improve the reception of the news relays from Kuala Lumpur. Tenom Relay Station became operational on 27th December, 1 on Mt. Kinabalu in January 1963, followed by Tawau on 15th February 1964. The VHF (FM) transmitting station was completed on Mt. Kinabalu in January 1965 and became the first station to broadcast FM  on experimental basis in Malaysia in April 1965. The FM broadcast was officially launched on 17th January 1966.


Radio Sarawak officially began broadcasts on June 7th 1954. It began its career with one medium-wave and one short-wave transmitters broadcasting programmes in English, Malay, Chinese and Iban  Planning for the establishment of the service actually began in 1951 based upon  a technical survey and much assistance and advice from the British Broadcasting Corporation BBC, and the service got off to a good start with what were than the most modern of Studios and equipment. Broadcasting in Sarawak literally started from scratch. There was no experience of broadcasting in the State and no pool of experienced engineers and programme producers which could be tapped. Staff had either to be recruited in small numbers from overseas or, for the most part, found locally and trained on the spot.

Since those days great progress has been made. In April 1958, the Station's twin-network service was inaugurated broadcasting 12 hours on two simultaneous transmission, each radiating on medium and short wave bands. In the same year, the School Broadcasting Service, under the Education Department successfully concluded its pilot scheme. It was officially inaugurated in January 1959. In June 1963 Radio Sarawak open its third network to cater for members of the Land Dayak community, who speak Biatah, Bau-Jagoi and Bukar-Sadong. This brought the number of languages and dialects the Station was broadcasting to 15. With the formation of Malaysia on 16th September 1963, Radio Sarawak became known as Radio Malaysia Sarawak. By the end of 1963 the daily programme output was 16 hours (19 hours at weekends). January 1965 brought with it longer and more extended hours of broadcasting: 22 hours daily and 24 hours during the weekends, excluding broadcasts to schools and programme for the Forces (Military and Police). The hours of broadcast were further extended as from 1st February 1970 (daily output 36 hours, 41 hours at weekends). The main objects of extension was to cater for longhouse and kampung listeners with early morning rural and farm programmes in Bahasa Melayu, Iban and Bidayuh, and to provide continuous broadcast of programmes in Bahasa Melayu daily from 6.00 a.m to 6.30 p.m.

Construction of the extension building to the Broadcasting House, Kuching, started in late June 1968, and was completed towards the end of September 1969 with additional facilities provided therein include two continuity suites, a general purpose studio, two editting and dubbing suites, and an auditorium with a seating capacity of 250 person. The expansion of the Stapok Transmitting Station completed in December 1969 enabled the station to broadcast four network simultaneously.

The regional Broadcasting Station at Limbang, about 650 kilometers away from Kuching was  the first of many satellite broadcasting stations to be established in Sarawak. It went on the air officially on 31st August 1969, relaying daily programmes from Kuching Studios. On completion of various ancillary the station originated programmes in the local dialects to suit the local populace.


Persekutuan Tanah Melayu (the Malay Peninsular) gained its Merdeka (Independent) on 31st August 1957. The country came to be known as sovereign independent Federation of Malaya. The occasion was given extensive coverage by the small outfit in Kuala Lumpur with full gusto to inspire the rakyat. As an Independent nation it was natural for Malaya to clamour for its own national Radio broadcast from its own Capital city. It was only 2 years after Merdeka, the anachronism Pan-Malaya broadcasting came to an end. On 1st January 1959 the new radio service was inaugurated in Kuala Lumpur designed to serve the Federation exclusively. Radio Malaya was separated from Radio Singapore.

Rapid development came to the radio services in the country. Kuala Lumpur became the headquarters and the hub. The west coast was considered to be well covered with studios and stations in Penang and Melaka. Finally radio broadcasts came to the east coast in Kota Bharu, Kelantan when it began operations in 1960. By 1962 the present day studios and transmitting stations of Radio Malaya, Kota Bharu was built in Wakaf Che' Yeh. It was officially opened by DYMM Sultan Kelantan on November 6th 1964. Kota Bharu has the distinction of being the pioneer of Regional Broadcast in Peninsular Malaysia when it began the broadcasts on 16th November 1963

With that, the regional structure of Radio Malaya in the peninsular took shape. The Northern Region has its headquarters in Penang covering the 4 states of Penang, Perak, Kedah and Perlis. The Southern region's headquarters was in Melaka covering the 2 states of Melaka and Johore. Kota Bharu naturally became the headquarters for the east coast covering the 3 states of Kelantan, Trengganu and Pahang. The headquarters of Radio Malaya in Kuala Lumpur took in the Central Region of the 2 states Selangor and Negeri Sembilan.

As a developing economy began to take shape, the demand to promote products and brands to the masses were extended to radio broadcasts which were considered to be having captivated audience. With that on 1st January 1962 Radio Malaya began its Commercial broadcasts. The support from the commercial sector was encouraging. It became the forefather of the present day thriving commercial radio broadcasts.

Rapid developements came fast and furious to Radio Malaya as the country was looking forward to the formation of a newly created entity MALAYSIA which was not well received by neighbouring Indonesia and the Philippines. To counter malicious attacks on the formation  the "Suara Malaya" (Voice of Malaya) goes on the air on 15 February 1962 in three languages, English, Indonesian and Mandarin. To this day the main aim of the Service is to project the image of Malaysia from its political, economic and social viewpoint; the Malaysian way of life, the music and culture, to entertainment, and of course finally to foster friendly ties with all peace-loving countries of the world.


The big day finally arrived on September 16th 1963, MALAYSIA was proclaimed. Its a landmark date for the country and the national broadcaster. Radio Malaysia (and "Suara Malaysia") came into existence as it is known today with Stations in Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore joining Radio Malaya under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, with  its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. On August 9th 1965 Singapore left Malaysia and with it Radio Singapore.

These are some of the developement that came to broadcasting before its Silver Jubilee in 1971:

> 28th December 1963: TV Malaysia was launched and began its broadcasts (More of this in another post).
> 15th March 1965: Ipoh transmitting station became operational.
>17th August 1965: Radio Malaysia Melaka was officially opened by the Yang DiPertua Negeri.
> 30th October 1965: Radio Malaysia Penang was officially opened by the Yang DiPertua Negeri
> May 1966: Radio Malaysia initiated School Broadcasts for primary schools in Semenanjung Malaysia

> May 1966: Transmitting station at Kuala Trengganu became operational
> 4th June 1966: Radio Malaysia Johor Bahru was officially opened by the Suiltan of Johor
> Jun 1966: Transmitting station at Kuantan became operational. It was officially opened by the Sultan of Pahang on 10th February 1968.

> 13th May 1967: Radio Malaysia Ipoh was officially opened by the Sultan of Perak

1st October 1969 began a new chapter in the history of Malaysian broadcasting - the integration of Radio and Television services into a single Department      



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