Sunday, July 27, 2008

Not many know...the very early days of Radio

The first radio transmission in Singapore was a short wave service 6060khz on the 49metere band starting as early as Nov 1932, It was reported this station operated at 2 Orchard Road. This was followed by a medium wave service. According to Adrian Petersen of the RadioHeritage Foundation…”Soon after the shortwave broadcasting service was launched, plans were announced for the establishment of a local broadcasting service, on mediumwave. The transmitter power was 2kW, the operating channel was 1232 kHz, the callsign was ZHL, and the location was in a government building in Empress Place. This mediumwave station began a regular broadcasting service on June 1, 1936. Programming on both shortwave and mediumwave was in parallel. A couple of years later, the studio facility was transferred to Cathay Building…”

And from another source..... “ By early December 1941, Cathay cinema remained one of the few places for relaxation in those anxious times, screening movies despite dwindling audiences. With the war imminent, the main building was rented out to the government and the British Malaya Broadcasting Corporation. A total of five floors were occupied by broadcast studios and administration, two floors for the Ministry of Economic Warfare, while the Royal Air Force occupied two rooms on another floor. It became the 'brain centre' for the colonial masters. During the initial air-raids and before the 'Fall of Singapore' in World War II, the building's ground floor was used by nearby residents as an air-raid shelter. On 8 February, when the Japanese accelerated their attacks on Singapore, Radio Malaya actively broadcast updates on enemy advances from their studios here, at Cathay Building. In February 1942, it has been estimated that the cinema was hit by at least 14 shells, with one striking on 15 February after noon, killing a few Australians who were in the hall at the time. The cinema hall was then being used for shelter and refuge. Singapore fell into enemy hands that evening.During the Japanese Occupation, the Japanese Broadcasting Department moved into the readily available Radio Malaya "broadcasting facilities" and began Radio Syonan's transmissions from here, in March 1942. Later their Propaganda Department Headquarters and Military Information Bureau were stationed here too. The restaurant became the dining room for Japanese Military officers stationed in the building. Occasional movie screenings were held for the public but these films were from existing stock from the storerooms. The 4th floor preview theatre screened American movies exclusively for Japanese Officers. The horrific sights outside Cathay Building during this grim time, were human heads stuck on poles, these were beheaded looters and other victims on a "clean-out" by the Japanese military. ……”

For another piece of interesting story please read Singapore Goes of the air at
Note: The Cathay Building was opened in 2 Oct 1939. It was 83m high the tallest building in Singapore then. The architect was Frank Brewer. Photo is by courtesy of the National Archives.
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