Can you name… Signature Tunes of Radio Ceylon..
Posted on September 6th, 2016

History of Radio Ceylon

Broadcasting on an experimental basis was started in Ceylon by the Telegraph Department in 1923, just three years after the inauguration of broadcasting in Europe. Gramophone music was broadcast from a tiny room in the Central Telegraph Office with the aid of a small transmitter built by the Telegraph Department engineers from the radio equipment of a captured German submarine.

The results proved successful and barely three years later, on December 16, 1925, a regular broadcasting service came to be instituted. Edward Harper who came to Ceylon as Chief Engineer of the Telegraph Office in 1921, was the first person to actively promote broadcasting in Ceylon. He launched the first experimental broadcast as well as founding the Ceylon Wireless Club together with British and Ceylonese radio enthusiasts. Edward Harper has been dubbed the ‘ Father of Broadcasting in Ceylon.’

The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation in Colombo, to this day, is one of the finest radio stations in the world. It also happens to be the oldest radio station in South Asia. Vernon Corea was one of the pioneers of this radio station and he was deeply proud to be part of the history of Radio Ceylon. He loved the Station. Radio was King in South Asia in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and Radio Ceylon really did rule the airwaves – the station was like no other – it led the field in South Asia.

People in the Indian sub-continent tuned into Radio Ceylon. The station was known as a ‘market leader’ in the field of entertainment. People wrote to Radio Ceylon from all over the world.

On December 16, 1925 the then British Governor Sir Hugh Clifford inaugurated the broadcasting service – It was first known as Colombo Radio. The name was changed to Radio Ceylon and the radio the station shifted to Torrington Square on October 5, 1949.

Radio Ceylon broadcaster Gnanam Rathinam in her book ‘ The Green Light’ ( Memories of Broadcasting in Sri Lanka) notes: ‘ In 1943 the Broadcasting Station premises was sited in a bungalow named The Bower, in Cotta Road, Borella (in the city of Colombo). In early days the programmes in all languages were scheduled and produced by announcers who covered airtime as well. The Colombo radio station at ‘The Bower’ ceased broadcasts by midnight on 31st December 1949 and Radio Ceylon came into being on 1st January 1950. On January 5, 1967, it became a state corporation – the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.

Commercial broadcasting from Radio Ceylon was inaugurated on September 30, 1950 and Clifford Dodd was seconded for service via the Colombo Plan. Dodd was charismatic and innovative and there was a real ‘buzz’ in Radio Ceylon after his arrival. South Asian leaders and ministers of the British Commonwealth, including India’s Jawaharlal Nehru, Ceylon’s J.R. Jayawardene and Ghulam Mohammed, decided that Asia needed something like the Marshall Plan that had just helped rebuild Europe after the ravages of war.

The Colombo Plan, which resulted from these deliberations, was the first multilateral effort in foreign aid in Asia. The key donor countries were Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain and the United States, and the organisation included Asian members of the Commonwealth like India, Ceylon and Pakistan.

This is a radio tribute presented by Shri Gopal Sharma ji, former Head, Hindi Deptt. Radio Ceylon. Shri Gopal Sharma ji has been kind enough to provide his permission and himself made this clip available for listening pleasure of SJHS fans.

Australia sent Clifford.R.Dodd to Radio Ceylon under the ‘Plan’ and it was a ‘ground breaking’ experience, as far as broadcasting in Ceylon was concerned. Clifford R.Dodd is regarded as the ‘Father of Commercial Broadcasting in Ceylon.

Vernon Corea joined Radio Ceylon in 1957. He left the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation as Director News in 1975.
(for full article visit)

Vernon Corea joined Radio Ceylon in 1957. He left the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation as Director News in 1975.


Here are some important chapters in the story of broadcasting in Sri Lanka.

1926 –  The opening of a Concert Studio at the Ceylon University College.

1927 – The installation of acoustically treated studios and an Engineering Control Room at Torrington Square, Colombo.

1934 – The constitution of a Wireless Broadcasting Advisory Board.

Also, first experiments with a short wave transmission to achieve better reception in areas outside a 40-mile radius of Colombo. Construction of a Receiving Station for the reception of Empire Programmes.

1937 – The installation of a 3.5-5 Kw medium wave transmitter by a Ceylonese engineer.

1939 – The issue of a fortnightly Programme Supplement to subscriber licence holders.

1940 –  The appointment of a Special Commission with Sir Kandiah Vaithianathan, as chairman, to report on all aspects of broadcasting.

The number of licences in Ceylon reached 10,000.

1942 – Owing to war conditions, the premises at Torrington Square were vacated for occupation by the R.A.F ., and the broadcasting organisation was accommodated in a residential bungalow in Cotta Road, Borella.

1947 – Work commenced on a building in Torrington Square, designed to suit the needs of a modern broadcasting station. This work was completed in September, 1949.

1949 – Radio SEAC (South East Asia Command) was taken over for Radio Ceylon.

The number of licence holders reached 27,000.

1950 – Inauguration of the Commercial Service of Radio Ceylon in September.

1953 – Appointment of a Commission on Broadcasting under the Chairmanship of Mr.N.E.WeerasuriyaQC.

1954 – Completion of work on a separate two storeyed building for the Commercial Service work commenced in 1953.

1958 – Installation of a Medium Wave Station at Diyagama commenced.

1960 – Experimental Project in establishing a Regional Station in Kandy commenced.

1967 – Radio Ceylon became a public corporation on January 5th 1967. The Prime Minister of Ceylon Dudley Senanayake ceremonially opened the newly established Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.

1972 – The country became a republic under Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

One Response to “Can you name… Signature Tunes of Radio Ceylon..”

  1. Nimal Says:

    Thank you very much for this article which brings me memories.
    One signature tune I could remember and grew up with was the children’s program that started every evening with the tune with vocals is “the teddy bear’s picnic'(1945)
    The announcers were
    Louie Wijemana,Leon Bennet,Nihal Barthi,Vije Corea and his brother Vernon Corea,
    The one I knew personally for long time until recently in London was Chris Greet.
    Chris also acted in the film ‘Bride on the river Kuwai’ as a British army officer.My mischievous burgher gang of friends and I too took part in it too.The two Thai girls(over 15 years older to me) in the film we knew personally had a lasting impression on me which I chose a similar from the Japanese origin for my wife.
    We never failed to listen to the kids program every evening,I think we had the first radio in Mirihana where the friends and neighbors come to listen to the English program called ‘family choice’.
    During the war where Japan bombed Ceylon,even the cops from the Mirihana police station situated in Station road came to our house to listen to the latest news.We had HMV(His master’s choice) radio.
    Good memories I say.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2024 All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress