Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corp. QSL (Gayle Van Horn QSL Collection)
The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation turns commercial
moons ago here in Wavescan, we presented several progressive topics on the radio story
in Ceylon and we brought you uptodate as far as the middle of last century, the
exact middle actually, in the year 1950.
In our program today, we return to the radio scene in Ceylon, or Sri
Lanka as we know this verdant isle today, and we tell the story of their very
popular Commercial Service.
In fact their Commercial Service was
indeed a very successful venture, one of the very few on shortwave anywhere in
the world. At the height of its
popularity, it is stated that half of the shortwave radios in India were tuned
to the Commercial Service of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, the SLBC
All Asia Service. And, in order to
obtain advertising in India for their Commercial Service, SLBC opened an
advertising office at Colaba in Bombay in 1951, and they were authorized to
also issue QSL cards.
At the time when the Radio Ceylon
Commercial Service was inaugurated, Sunday October 1, 1950, there were just
eleven broadcast transmitters on the island, and these facilities were on the air at
just three different locations. Radio
Ceylon was set ready for expansion, but islandwide coverage was still rather
The first location was a new set of
studios that had just been completed during the previous year at Torrington Square Colombo. These
replaced the temporary wartime usage of the studios in The Bower on Cotta Road,
and the previous SEAC studios on Turret Road.
The lone mediumwave transmitter
station at Welikada on the edge of suburban Colombo contained just four
transmitters: 1 @ 15 kW (Sinhala Language National Service), 1 @ 1 kW (English
Language Service), and 2 @ ¼kW (Sinhala Language Commercial
Service & the Tamil
Their third radio broadcasting
facility was located at Ekala (ECK-a-la) a dozen miles north of Colombo and it
contained a total of seven shortwave transmitters: 1 @ 100 kW (International
coverage), 3 @ 7½kW (National
and international coverage) and 3 @ ¼kW (Capital city coverage).
At the time when Australian born
Clifford Dodd was transferred to Colombo under the international aid project
known as the Colombo Plan in 1950, the BBC Program Director James Mudie
concluded his term of service and returned to England and joined the technical
staff of BBC Television. (James Mudie
was a relative to our DX host, Adrian Peterson.)
Clifford Dodd was the driving force
behind the rapid development of the Radio Ceylon Commercial Service and his
name is still honored more than half a century later. Under his leadership, many local personnel
became legendary radio personalities, and among them were Jimmy Bharucha,
Shirley Perera, Nihal Bharati and Vernon Corea.
The coverage area for the Radio
Ceylon Commercial Service extended well beyond the shores of their own
island. The capital city Commercial
Service was heard on mediumwave and tropical shortwave in three language
streams; English, Sinhala and Tamil. The
main Commercial Service for Southern Asia was beamed to India mainly, but also
to other nearby countries on shortwave.
Attempts were also made to introduce
a Commercial Service beamed to Africa, the Middle East and South East
Asia. The service to India and nearby
countries was later broadcast under the title, the All Asia Service.
During the mid 1950s, there was some
consideration given to closing the Commercial Service on shortwave due to poor
propagation. However, over a period of
time, conditions improved and the service became a resounding success. In fact,
in a huge number of village bazaars throughout India, a visitor could walk down
the shopping isle and follow the programming from Radio Ceylon all the way,
with the radio receiver blaring loudly in each stall.
Some time around the year 1958, all
six of the low powered shortwave transmitters at Ekala, ¼kW and 7½kW, were progressively removed and replaced;
ultimately, by a total of ten new transmitters, each rated at 10 kW, made in
Holland by the Philips company.
In 1967, Radio Ceylon was renamed
the Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation; and in 1972, the station was redesignated
again, as the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, due to the change in name for
the island country itself. Then, as we
know, the entire Ekala shortwave station was ultimately and finally closed in
the middle of last year.
During the more than six score of
active years on the air, the shortwave services from Ekala were heard virtually
worldwide. Many thousands of reception
reports were addressed to the station at the Torrington Square studios. Even though many international radio monitors
frequently complained that they were unable to receive a QSL card from Colombo,
yet in reality over the years they were spasmodically a prolific verifier. The Indianapolis Heritage Collection contains
several hundred shortwave, mediumwave and FM QSLs from Colombo, though
admittedly many of them are self prepared do-it-yourself cards, rubber stamped
onto Postal Cards issued by the national postal service.
the many QSL cards officially printed for use by the station are colorful
tourist style picture cards showing city and country scenes, as well as events
and people within the island nation.
Also highly appreciated were the two different QSL cards showing the
studio building in Colombo. The QSL card
issued by the Bombay office in India showed a modified picture of the same
studio building (AWR-Wavescan/NWS 293 via Adrian Peterson)