Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and its history


 Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) was perhaps the first British colony to introduce radio broadcasting a few years after its inauguration in Europe. The arrangements made for broadcasting service in Great Britain in 1923 involved the granting of a licence to the British Broadcasting Company for the establishment of stations in different parts of the country. This sparked off unusual interest in broadcasting in a number of British colonies. In Sri Lanka a committee was appointed to report on the feasibility of radio broadcasting. A significant event took place in 1921. Mr.Edward Harper arrived in Ceylon on July 21, 1921 to take up duties as Chief Engineer, Telegraphs. Harper brought with him a deep interest in the medium of radio broadcasting. He was ably supported in the endeavour by a team of British and local enthusiasts. Harper was instrumental in banding the radio enthusiasts together by forming the Ceylon Wireless Club. The committee recommended that making use of the existing plant at the Colombo Wireless Station and equipping it with additional apparatus should commence radio broadcasting. Mr. Harper's vantage position as Chief Engineer was helpful in introducing radio broadcasting. The first experimental broadcast was done on 22 February 1924. The new home of the YMCA in Colombo was opened by His Lordship the Bishop of Colombo. The proceedings of the opening ceremony were broadcast, creating a new history in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Just four months after the YMCA experiment, Radio broadcasting was inaugurated by Sir William Henry Manning, the then British Governor on 27 June 1924 at 2.30pm.Sir Manning was due to address the members of the Engineering Association of Ceylon at the annual session. It so happened that Mr. Harper made it the occasion to inaugurate broadcasting. This event was very significant since it marked the inauguration of broadcasting in the first South Asian country. There is a difference of opinion on the date of the inauguration of radio broadcasting in the country. December 16,1925, was actually the day on which the improved transmitter was opened by the then Governor - the actual date of inauguration was 27 June 1924. On June 27, 1924 at 3.30pm a programme of recorded music was broadcast by placing a microphone in front of an ordinary gramophone. The studio amplifier and transmitter were all housed in one small room in the Central Telegraphic Office building. The public was informed that this temporary apparatus was limited range and power and that the broadcasts were experimental and liable to disturbances. After July 1, 1924 broadcasts were given somewhat irregularly, two or three times a week, depending on programme materials available, much of which were gramophone records. Mail news, universal time signals and weather reports were subsequently broadcast daily. The end of 1924 had issued a total of 53 licences.The available evidence suggests that by the end of 1925 the service had emerged from its early stage. The station was providing a regular broadcast service on 800 meters using the Colombo Telegraph transmitter with certain modifications. The Governor of Ceylon, Sir Hugh Clifford, inaugurated broadcasting on the new plant on 16 December 1925. The transmitter opened on this days was a 1Kw one compared to the previous one which was only 1/2 kW.

With the afternoon broadcasting, there commenced the transmission of an extended news service. In the evening a musical programme consisting of songs and solos on the piano , banjo and violin contributed by Mrs. Spencer Shepherd and Messrs F.J.Harlow, J.Mackenzie, John Murray, C. Wilding and H.O. White was broadcast. The acoustical properties of the new studio, which was used for the first time on 16 December 1925, proved a great improvement on the old arrangements. The transmission was remarkably free from disturbing street noises.

A series of Christmas Carols was broadcast on 17 December 1925 from 6.00pm onwards. All in all 160 radio licences has been issued by December 1925. A dual transmission was introduced in 1947-48 for the first time in the country. The short wave 61.2 meters was reserved for broadcasts in English and the Medium wave of 428.6 meters for Sinhala and Tamil.

Establishment of Radio Ceylon

After the Second World War, the impending vacation of the Cotta Road premises showed the need for a permanent and modern type of broadcasting station. A plan for constructing eight highly specialised studios at Torrington (Independence) Square was, therefore launched, but progress was not quite satisfactory, due to the scarcity of building material in the wake of the war. However completion of the eight new studios and conversion of the building were done by September 1949. Also Radio SEAC (South East Asia Command) was taken over in March 1949. The SEAC radio station had been set up during World War 2 by the British Services to bring within the reach of Servicemen overseas.

On 1 October 1949, the subject of radio broadcasting happened to be organised under a government department and came to be known as RADIO CEYLON. A BBC officer John Lampson was brought in to head Radio Ceylon.

January 5, 1967, Radio Ceylon became a public corporation. The late Dudley Senanayake, then Prime Minster ceremonially opened the newly established Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation and appointed Mr. Neville Jayaweera as the Chairman of the corporation. Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation changed to Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) after Ceylon became the Republic of Sri Lanka

 Technical Development of the SLBC

There have been several plans to phase out the medium wave broadcasting and introduce FM broadcasting. In 1978, then Engineer Planning Mr.Rukmin Wijemanne conducted a FM stereo test transmission for the first time in the Sri Lanka Radio history. I too got involved in this project and it was very successful and later one of the existing studios was converted to a Stereo studio and a permanent FM Stereo broadcast was introduced in September 1981, to cater mainly to English listeners. This service became very popular among the metropolitan listeners. Currently, all three language (English Sinhala and Tamil) broadcasts are available on FM stereo island wide.

The SLBC now has stereo production and continuity studios with the latest equipment in its premises at Independence Square in Colombo.



Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation
Torrigton Square
Colombo 7
Sri Lanka
Director General: Mr. Nimal Lakshapathiarachchi - e-mail:
Telephone: 94 1 696525
Fax: 94 1 698576

Click here to hear SLBC station opening theme on Real Audio
courtesy Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation

Sri Lanka Rupavahini(TV) Corporation is the second TV station in Sri Lanka and opened in February 1982. It is a gift from the Japanese Government. It covers the whole country on VHF and the signal used to reach as far as the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu, that was before its repeating station in the north was destroyed by the terrorists. Currently it has three main studios and an Outside Broadcast Unit. Rupavahini is the Sinhalese word for TV. It caters for all nationals of Sri Lanka, broadcasting programmes in all three langauges, Sinhala, Tamil and English.
Click here to listen to Sri Lanka National TV(RUPAVAHINI)opening theme on Real Audio

Postal address : Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation
Independence Square
Colombo 7
Sri Lanka
Deputy Director General - Mr. Nimal Lakshapathiarachchi

ITN commenced its transmission from a small shack at Pannipitiya on April 14, 1979, with a 1 kilowatt transmitter and a half completed 65ft antenna mast. The equipment of the maiden venture was barely minimal consisting of video play back gear (U-Matic Low Band ) , telecine and other accessories, all valued at Rs. 3.3 million ( 30,000 ). ITN became a Government Owned Business Undertaking on June 5, 1979. At present ITN channel 12 beamed from a modern TV transmitting station in Wickramasinghe Pura in Colombo. There are two programme production studios and an outside broadcast unit at the same place. Steps have already been taken to expand the ITN coverage island wide. ITN is managed by a Competent Authority assisted by a General manager and two directors, one for Engineering and one for Administration and three heads of sections for finance, commercial operations and programme presentation.

Postal address: ITN Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Director Engineer: Mr. W.S.E.(Srilal) Fernando
Director General: Mr.Newton Gunaratne
Click here to hear ITN station opening theme on Real Audio


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