The history of radio in Malaya began in the year 1921 when an electrical engineer from the Johor Government, A.L. Birch, brought the first radio set into the country. He then established the Johore Wireless Association and commenced broadcasting through 300 meter waves. This was then followed by the establishment of the same association in Penang and the Malayan Wireless Association in Kuala Lumpur.
In the year 1930, Sir Earl from the Singapore Port Authority commenced its short wave broadcast every fortnight either on Sundays or Wednesdays. The same effort was emulated by the Malayan Wireless Association, broadcasting from Bukit Petaling, Kuala Lumpur, via 325 meter waves. This was followed by the efforts of Sir Shenton Thomas who opened the Studio of Broadcasting Corporation of Malaya and its transmitter at Caldecott Hill, Singapore, on 11th March 1937. The British Broadcasting Corporation of Malaya was then taken over by the Straits Settlement and became a part of the British Information Ministry better known as the Malayan Broadcasting Corporation.
Following the Japanese invasion and the end of British rule in Singapore in 1942, the Japanese took over and used the existing radio channels in Penang, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Seremban and Singapore to transmit Japanese propaganda. However, in the year 1943, the British came back into power and reclaimed the stations. On 1st April 1946, the Department of Broadcasting was established in Singapore. When emergency, caused by the outbreak of social riots was declared in 1948, it became necessary to further enhance and develop radio services.
In the early 50's, broadcasting activities in Malaya were operated from its temporary studio in Jalan Young (now know as Jalan Cenderasari) in Kuala Lumpur and later in 1956, were moved to the Federal House, Kuala Lumpur. It was here that broadcasting in Malaysia grew with the establishment of several stations throughout the country including Sabah and Sarawak. Commercial advertisements were first aired on radio in 1960. This became a new source of revenue for the Government. An interesting point to note is that 'deejays' began to use the introduction "INILAH RADIO MALAYSIA" (This is Radio Malaysia) to greet listeners at the very first time Malaysia was formed in 16th September 1963.
Broadcasting further carved another milestone when Television services were introduced on 28 December 1963 from its studio, Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Ampang. Broadcast operations then moved office to Angkasapuri Complex which began its telecast on 6th October 1969, Radio and Television were merged under the Ministry of Information. The growth of the first channel, Rangkaian Satu encouraged the second channel to be established on 17th November 1969.
It was in Angkasapuri Complex that rapid development in broadcasting for both radio and television began. Broadcast time was extended to cater to the needs of listeners from all walks of life. National Radio Channel (Rangkaian National) began its round the clock services to cater for night shift workers such as factory operators, wardens, hospital staffs, lorry or bus drivers, pick-up service operators, food courts or caterers and security guards. Today, Malaysians enjoy listening to 6 radio channels 24 hours a day in Malay, English, Mandarin and Tamil while East Malaysians (Sabah and Sarawak) are tuning to radio channels in their respective native languages such as Kadazan, Murut, Dusun, Bajau, English and Mandarin via Blue Channel RTM Kota Kinabalu. Bidayuh, a dialect widely used by Sarawakians, is the main language for Blue Channel RTM Kuching. Iban and Kayan/Kenyah are dialects used in the Green Channel of the station while English and Mandarin are local dialects used for the Red Channel. Except for RTM Limbang, dialects used for the Red Channel. Except for RTM Limbang, dialects used to communicate with the listeners are as mentioned but Bisaya and Murut (Lun Bawang) are also spectacular dialects used in that channel.
Electronic media is the most important source of receiving and disseminating information because it is fast, cheap and direct to or from the clients. Knowing the fact that being laden with too much information creates adverse effects to Radio listeners or TV audience, an alternative of placing information side by side with entertainment is practised. On 20th June 1975, Radio Muzik (Muzik Radio) was launched. As the name implies, the channel allows for total entertainment in the form of songs for listeners of all ages.
Development in television is also very rapid especially in the era of Information Technology (IT). Efforts to air 80 percent local programmes and 20 percent foreign or imported programmes are taken very seriously.
April 1st 1996 marked RTM's 50 years anniversary. RTM has experienced tremendous changes and development in the field of broadcasting. 1998 was another historical year for RTM. World class sporting events were brought to Kuala Lumpur. World standard athletes came from all Commonwealth countries in the world to witness and judge Malaysia's capabilities in broadcasting. The International Broadcasting Centre (IBC) became the centre of broadcasting excellence during the Commonwealth games and RTM is the Host Broadcaster.
TV Malaysia started its early telecast on 1st March 1994 and started transmission as early as 6.00 am. TV1, The Prime Channel introduced "Selamat Pagi Malaysia" (Good Morning Malaysia). TV2, The Golden Channel, later followed by launching "Moving On Two" in December 1996. The commencement of the early morning telecasts also enable news and up-dates to be aired more frequently. RTM's News Centre which is fully computerised with up-to-date editing and post-production facilities was able to provide this service.
What could be more praiseworthy is not only that the number of listeners, viewers and revenues collected from commercial advertisements derived from airing them increasing year by year, but RTM has marked yet another milestone with the introduction of RTM's website at the end of 1995. This service which was launched by the Honourable Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed on 27th December 1995, enables listeners to tune to the TV and Radio stations via the Internet. The Internet does not lessen the role of radio and television. On the contrary, the Net can be used to enhance the functions of radio and televisyen in disseminating information globally.