COMMENCEMENT OF BROADCASTING IN SRI LANKA IT WAS ON 16TH DECEMBER 1925. 93 YEARS AGO.
Posted on December 13th, 2017

By- Dr.Sripali Vaiamon.Vice President SRI LANKA VETERAN BROADCASTERS ASSOCIATION.

CONTRIBUTING AN ARTICLE TO THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY COPY OF BROADCASTING IN SRI LANKA BY THE LATE MR.H.M.GUNASEKARA,THE PRESIDENT OF The VETERAN BROADCASTERS ASSOCIATION IN SRI LANKA,CATAGORICALLY SAID,  BRITAIN INAUGRATED REGULAR BROADCASTING SERVICE IN NOVEMBER 1922,-ON THE SAME YEAR THE CEYLON WIRELESS CLUB WAS FORMED BY A FEW OF  OUR RADIO ENTHUSISASTS IN CEYLON…

In 1923, The Ceylon Telegraph department commenced experiments in broadcasting with a small transmitter built from parts recovered from a captured German submarine and some spares belonging to the Colombo ship-to-shore telegraphy transmitter The team was headed by Mr.Edward Harper ,the Chief Engineer of the Colombo Telegraph who came to island in 1921. Music was put over to the transmitter by placing a microphone in front of an ordinary gramophone with a horn on experimental basis.  The studio amplifier and transmitter were all housed in one small room in the central telegraph building.

Mr.T.Jaimon, News Editor, Radio Ceylon, contributing an article to the SRI LANKA” of the dept. of Information, published on 15th October 1952,referred to the inaugural broadcast thus:(Heard by some one.)  I was one of an eager crowed that awaited in tense anticipation for the Governor’s words to come through, and come they did, but in such volume and tone that most of the speech was unintelligible. The effect was not dissimilar to the first moving picture, in which people were seeing jerkily articulating their limbs. The speaker if I remember right was Sir Hugh Clifford who did not have what we would today describe as a good microphone voice, which probably partly accounted for the poor reception. However, everybody was satisfied that broadcasting had arrived in Ceylon and a new era had begun.

Mr.Jaimon comments in his article that the progress of broadcasting was slow because it was long remained an incidental responsibility of the telegraph Dept. and those in authority were not alive to the value of the new medium of public address and entertainment that had been evolved. To mention a single significant fact, it was not until 1930 that a separate transmitter was built for broadcasting. (This I extracted to note how the progress had been taken place in comparison to today’s standard.)

As the Vice President of the Association when I came out with  this article there was a bit of a controversy with regard to the commencement of official opening of broadcasting in Ceylon and I quoted our PATRON Livy Wijemanna who responded to a query raised by the then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of State ,where he had quoted Vaithianathan Commission Report which was the first review of broadcasting in this country issued in 1941, where it states quite categorically that DECEMBER 16TH 1925, ON WHICH DATE THIS SERVICE WAS INAUGURATED, MARKED THE BIRTHDAY OF BROADCASTING IN CEYLON.-a very early date in the history of broadcasting in the WORLD.

The News, weather reports, road reports and share prices were b/c in addition to music programmes from the inception. Most of these details I have quoted in my booklet, Land Marks of Broadcasting in Sri Lanka which I issued when I was the Director Audience Research.

A copy of it I appended to the end of 75th year Anniversary issue for easy reference. Perhaps if you are interested you would be able to obtain a free copy of the booklet if it is available at the Station.

However, a remarkable progress of development of Broadcasting in the country had been visible after the appointment of Superintendent of broadcasting, Shirly da Silva in 1937.  In 1942 the premises in Torrington had been moved to BOWER, COTTA ROAD, BORELLA. The Dept of Broadcasting came into being on 1st of October 1949 and named RADIO CEYLON. The first DIRECTOR GENERAL WAS MR.JOHN N .LAMPSON AND AFTER HIM THE CEYLONESE DIRECTOR GENERAL WAS MR.M.J.PERERA.A well recognized Civil Servant.

However I like to quote Professor K.N.O.Dhrmadasa writing a FOREWORD to one of my books published in America on 02/05/2012 PRE-HISTORIC LANKA TO END OF TERRORISM,(A book on Sociology ). ,where he had briefed the standard that were prevailing at the time that I associated.—SRIPALI VAIAMON was several years ago, a very well known figure in Sri Lanka media scene. He served with distinction the then Radio Ceylon, whose name was later changed into Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. He joined the institution early in the 1950’s. It was a government institution and all the rules and regulations pertaining to government service were operant there. In some of the chapters in this book he gives us a glimpse of the trails and tribulations a government servant serving a media institution (one and only such in the country at the time) had to undergo. What is more significant is the fact that, as will appear in his narration, Whether it was music, dramas ,discussions or special features, great care was taken to present to listeners the best in quality. This fact has to be mentioned today, some sixty years hence when we hear from all quarters the fall of standards, in aesthetic quality, in taste as well as in language……

It must have been the position in several years back and now I presume the standard must have been rejuvenated and uplifted with the assumptions of several educated experts who are aware with art and technique.

Now let us continue the broadcastingwise historical aspects little further without getting into minor details.

IN 1927-                Broadcast of News and Sport News

The first production of drama (English) Wireless Drama” by J.S.M.Paterson

Live b/c of Sinhala Music by M.G .Perera  &party

21.04. 1928             First Sinhala Talk by Rev.Palane Sri Vajiragnana

May 1931                Commencement of Education Broadcast by the Dept: of Education

1935                          First Broadcast of Race Commentaries

1936                          Sinhala Childrens’ Programme-Presented by Catherine Hapugoda

2nd Aug. 1937           Appointment of Superintendent of Broadcasting Mr.Shirley da Silva

1938                           Under an agreement with Reuter, the Station obtained the right to b/cNews

Bulletins  twice daily

Relayed Kandy Perahera with studio sound effects

1939                           News b/c relayed four times daily

Formation of a Sinhala Orchestra-Leader,H.Don Vincent

23rd Nov.  [sv1]                  special b/c from Anuradhapura pinnacle laying ceremony ofRuwanveli Seya

1942 3rd Sept.           The premises in Torrington Square were commandeered for the Armed Services

And Studios and Control Room were moved to the -BOWER-Cotta Road, Borella

1948                         Relays of  Easter race meeting from Nuwara Eliya and  Ceylon tennis Champion

Ship  for the first time.

Coverage of the ceremonies connected with the Independence celebrations & the

Visit of Duke of Gloucester

1949                        Prof.Ratnajankar of Bhathkande University conducted an Audition for Sinhala

vocalists

Radio Seac was taken over for Radio Ceylon

Namo Namo  Matha was selected as the National Anthem and played at 11.00 am

On 4th of February

1950 . 30th Sept.  Inauguration of the Commercial Service by Clifford R.Dodd

Special progs. Were b/c to commemorate SILVER JUBILEE OF Radio Ceylon on 16.12.50

 

31st March 1951    First b/c of the SHOW OF THE MONTH  from 8-00 to 9-00 pm

Sept.             Inauguration of the School Service as a separate service of RADIO CEYLON

1953 – April             THARANGANI was issued

1956                              A listener Research Unit was formed

1959 Oct                        News Division became under Director General

1962                               Introduction of FM to Sri Lanka

1967                                Radio Ceylon became a Corporation

5t June                School Service became Education Service

1969 20th July                 Simultaneous coverage of the moon landing  over all services

1970                                 Radio Ceylon Training School was established-Director Stewart Wavell of BBC

1972                                  The Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation re-named Sri Lanka

Broadcasting Corporation-SLBC

1978-2nd Oct-                    Inauguration of Sports Service -Channel 3

2nd N0v.                   Opening of the Middle East and East Africa Services

1979-12th April                  Opening of RAJA RATA SEVAYA-ANURADHAPURA

14th April                  Introduction of TELIVISION to SRI LANKA

1980 3rd Feb.                     Opening of RUHUNU SEVAYA-MATARA

1981 March                       Inauguration of mahaveli Community Radio

1983 13th April                  Opening of MAHANUWARA SEVAYA-KANDY

1985                                   Commentaries on the Commissioning of VICTORIA DAM

1986 11th April                  Inauguration of Community  Broadcasting -GIRANDURUKOTTE

1989 12th Feb.                   Inauguration of Community Broadcasting- Kothmale

189 3rd Nov.                        CITY-FM   Service was inaugurated

1993                                     NEW STUDIO COMPLEX

1997 17TH July                     First stage of Island-wide  FM  -from KARAGAHATENNA

1998 12TH April                    PULATHISIRAVAYA- Opened up at ARALAGANVILA-POLONNARUWA

1999 30th April                     Community Broadcasting Network project-KOTMALE

( Balance up to date will be published by somebody at the STATION )

INAUGUARATION OF COMMERCIAL BROADCASTING IN SRI LANKA

By late Mr. Livy Wijemanna-,Director of Commercial Broadcasting-Chairman-Patron Adaptation by Dr.Sripali Vaiamon-Vice President of the Sri Lanka Veteran Broadcasters Association

THE VETERAN BROADCASTERS IN SRI LANKA FORMED AN ASSOCIATION SOMETIMES BACK AND RELEASED A COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE on 16th of December  2000 WHERE the Patron of the Association, late Mr. LIVY WIJEMANNA CONTRIBUTED AN ARTICLE ELABORATING THE COMMENCEMENT OF COMMERCIAL BROADCASTING  IN SRI LANKA.WAR OFFICE IN BRITAIN INVOLVED FOR THIS FROM THE VERY INCEPTION. WAR OFFICE IN BRITAIN.IN 1941 PURCHASED OUTRIGHT A 78 ACRE ESTATE AT EKALA, J a-ela , CLOSER TO COLOMBO FOR THE ERACTION OF A TRANSMITTING STATION FOR… -Full Story- (LankaWeb – 07/12/17)

2 Responses to “COMMENCEMENT OF BROADCASTING IN SRI LANKA IT WAS ON 16TH DECEMBER 1925. 93 YEARS AGO.”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Interesting.

    We take it for granted.

    Hats off to those people who made it a reality. Even TN people from Kanyakumari were listening to SLBC.

  2. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    LORENZO !!! I remember when I was a School boy, the Broadcasting Corporation was at Borella, on Cotta Road almost next to Tourner Road. At that time, there was also a Broadcasting station, almost opposite Town Hall on Turret Road. It was known as SEAC, South East Asia Command. That was run by Foreigners, I believe. They beamed mostly English Music. I remember Livy Wijemanne very well. So, you can see how old Iam. The Borella Broadcasting Station, subsequently was converted to a Childrens Montesoori, and children were happily playing on the lawns during intervals. Clifford Dodd was a strong arm in commercial Broadcasting. He used to conduct Amateur Hour, along with Tim Horshinton. Brings nostalgic memories of my childhood days. I remember the Chief Engineer Radio Ceylon, H.B.F. De Silva. His family were our family friends. The good old days.

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