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RTM Turns 74 Today: How Well Do You Know Our National Broadcaster?

Today marks the 74th Anniversary of Hari RTM (Radio Television Malaysia). For most of us from the older generation, we basically grew up watching RTM progammes on TV and listening to songs on its radio stations. In school, there were periods where ‘TV Pendidikan’ was screened as part of our curriculum. So, while RTM may not be high on the list for many today, what with the slew of other platforms available, it’s fair to say that it did positively influence our lives, once upon a time.

And to mark Hari RTM today, Gendang presents some interesting facts, figures and trivia about our beloved national broadcaster.

  • RTM began broadcasting radio on 1 April 1946. It was based in Singapore and was known as the Department of Broadcasting. It was then operated in Kuala Lumpur from 1951 at different locations including Bangunan Oriental at the old Hospital Tang Ling, Rumah Persekutuan and Wisma Radio Angkasapuri in 1971. The first two radio stations introduced were Radio Malaya (in Malay) and The Blue Network (in English).
  • For the first time ever in 1960, commercials were aired on radio and it became a new source of income for the government.
  • The television service was officially introduced on 28 December 1963, and was operated from its studio at Jalan Ampang.
  • All broadcast operations then moved to the Angkasapuri Complex, which began its telecast on 6 October 1969. It was earlier officially opened by the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj Ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah on 17 January 1968. Radio and Television were then merged under the Ministry of Information and became Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM).
Pic by PulauKakatua19 / Wikimedia Commons
  • Colour TVs were then needed when RTM started broadcasting in colour in 1978 in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak, two years later.
  • One of RTM’s most iconic programmes, ‘Bintang RTM’, was first aired in 1973 after Bakat TV and Bakat Radio were merged. ‘Bintang RTM’ has since discovered and produced some of the country’s biggest singing talents, including the late Dato’ Sudirman Haji Arshad, Rosemaria Abdul Hamid, Dato’ Jamal Abdillah and Ramlah Ram.
  • RTM channels also kept people glued in front of their TV sets with entertaining gameshows like ‘Tekaria’ and ‘More Jutaria’, and quality, long-running drama series including ‘Opah’, ‘Anjang Aki’ and ‘PJ Holdings’.
  • RTM also produced a long list of well-respected broadcast journalists, newsreaders, and sports commentators including Wan Chik Daud, Harjit Singh Hullon, Alan Zacheriah, Ronnie Atkinson, Dato’ Rahim Razali and the late Dato’ Hasbullah Awang. On radio, names such as Yasmin Yusoff, Zainal Din Zainal and Patrick Teoh remain inimitable till today.
  • In 1982, a Malay Mail newspaper reader Peter Teo called up its hotline and basically started the first known crowdfunding exercise. Since RTM did not have enough funds to broadcast the 1982 World Cup matches that were held in Spain, Teo urged members of the Malaysian public to chip in RM1 each to pay for the rights. An astounding RM300,000 was eventually collected and RTM aired several of the matches, with the words Ditaja Oleh Rakyat Malaysia (‘Sponsored by the People of Malaysia’) proudly displayed.
  • RTM’s appeal and increasing popularity with the masses nearly caused the collapse of the video rental industry. It was reported by the New Straits Times in 1987 that popular Chinese serials, the World Cup and films sponsored by cigarette companies meant less people were renting video cassettes then!
  • RTM were also the official broadcaster for many iconic sporting events and moments like the classic Piala Malaysia finals of the 80s, World Cup Hockey and the 1992 Thomas Cup final when Malaysia ended its 25-year wait for the trophy. Strangely enough, RTM also used to air American Football’s ‘Super Bowl’ ‘live’ in the early 90s.
  • Today, RTM runs 5 television channels and 36 radio stations. All of these channels and stations are also streamed live on myklik.rtm.gov.my.

Sources: RTM website, Wikipedia, ‘Chronicle of Malaysia’

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  1. One strong memory I have of RTM is going to Angkasapuri to draw a ball on the live telecast of the TOTO Weekly Draw. How we have changed as a nation.

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