Remembering Rediffusion: Singapore

Rediffusion (Singapore) Limited
Rediffusion House
182 Clemenceau Avenue
SINGAPORE    Tel. 362211


Rediffusion Singapore was established in the late 1940’s bringing a Cable Radio Service thousands of subscribers in Singapore at a time when radio sets were very expensive and reception of such stations very poor.

The service comprised two audio channels and was based on the system of distribution which had proved successful in the UK. Subscriber take-up grew at a rapid rate with Rediffusion loudspeakers being installed in domestic and commercial premises throughout the island. The Rediffusion sevice remained primary radio service for over thirty years.

Headquarters and studios were built on Tank Road, later to become Clemenceau Avenue after road improvements. Singapore’s Governor, Sir Franklin Gimson opened the station in August 1949.

Jack Snowdon became Managing Director of the company, a post he was to hold for over 30 years. The station was an immediate success with the listening public with a monthly subscription of $5. Broadcasts comprised UK produced programmes with a Chineese language channel added later. By the early 1980’s, the subscriber base totalled over 100,000. In 1980 the Singapore government backed the Speak Mandarin Campaign and Rediffusion was required to stop all dialect programmes by 1982.

Rediffusion Singapore  in  Clemenceau Ave.  (1980)

With the advent of off-air Television and radio broadcasting through the 1980’s, Rediffusion rapidly lost out to the competition and the cable service went into decline and by 1988 had fallen to just 63,000.

By the mid 1980’s BET, Rediffusion’s parent company, decided divest it’s electronics interests and the Rediffusion Group was subsequently broken up and sold off.

Rediffusion Singapore remained in BET ownership until 1989 when it was finally disposed, with the broadcasting system going  to a UK consortium YRN (Yorkshire Radio Network):

Rediffusion sold to UK firm for $9 million

REDIFFUSION, which was set up 40 years ago in Singapore, has been bought by a private broadcasting firm in the United Kingdom for $9 million. Mr. Wong Ban Kuan, the newly appointed Managing Director of Rediffusion Private (S) Limited, confirmed the takeover bid in an interview with Shin Min.

The sale of Rediffusion by a local subsidiary of BET, a UK group dealing in industrial services,was officially sealed on May 30 1989. The deal was approved by the Ministry of Communications and information late last month.

Rediffusion’s new owner is Yorkshire Radio Network (YRN), a listed company in the United Kingdom. Announcing the takeover last week, Mr. Michael Mallet, YRN’s Chairman, said his company was prepared to beef-up its Singapore operations. YRN is confident that with its  vast and successful experience, it would be able to build up Rediffusion’s business in Singapore.

Those in the broadcasting industry expect Rediffusion to undertake major moves soon, including the introduction of a wireless service and observed that, if there is any question to be considered, it would be the commercial feasibility of such a service. If the service materialises, Rediffusion is expected to expand its media influence, according to the report.

With the takeover, Mr. Wong has also been promoted from Group Manager of Rediffusion (S) Pte Ltd to Managing Director of the Singapore group, the report added. Mr.Wong was quoted saying, “Rediffusion will continue to develop its existing operations and air programmes, and the new owner will help usher into Rediffusion a fresh concept and system.

May 1989

By early 2000 Rediffusion was a mere shadow of that of its heyday. The subscription base dropped to less than 8000 in favour of   “off air” broadcasters. In 2003, Rediffusion Singapore again changed ownership and underwent a major transformation. The Rediffusion name still exists as a DAB broadcaster offering a number of subscription and ‘free-to-air digital  channels featuring a programming mix of News, Music, Talk and Drama.

The Early Years

Rediffusion Singapore  in  Clemenceau Ave.  (1950)

Singapore Rediffusion was centred on a large, three-storied building especially erected for its purpose and situated on the outskirts of the commercial centre. The building accommodated the offices, programme origination, central control, stores, and workshop.

Programmes were fed, by means of rented lines to amplifying stations in the heart of the shopping and housing areas as these were the most densely populated quarters of Chinatown and yielded the highest subscriber density. Subsequently development extended to the less thickly peopled but more easily accessible districts in the outskirts.

Rediffusion Singapore was established in the late 1940’s bringing a Cable Radio Service thousands of subscribers in Singapore at a time when radio sets were very expensive and reception of such stations very poor.

The service comprised two audio channels and was based on the system of distribution which had proved successful in the UK since the early 1930’s. Subscriber take-up grew at a rapid rate with Rediffusion loudspeakers being installed in domestic and commercial premises throughout the island. The Rediffusion sevice remained primary radio service in Singapore for over thirty years.

Headquarters and studios were built on Tank Road, later to become Clemenceau Avenue after road improvements. Singapore’s Governor, Sir Franklin Gimson opened the station in August 1949. It was an immediate success with the listening public with a monthly subscription of $5.

The Rediffusion System

Singapore Rediffusion was centred on a large, three-storied building especially erected for its purpose and situated on the outskirts of the commercial centre.

The building accommodated the offices, programme origination, central control, stores, and workshop.

Programmes were fed, by means of rented lines to amplifying stations in the heart of the shopping and housing areas as these were the most densely populated quarters of Chinatown and yielded the highest subscriber density. Subsequently development extended to the less thickly peopled but more easily accessible districts in the outskirts.

For feeding the distribution kiosks, star-quad H.L.L. cables were erected on trolley poles wherever it was possible as the buildings were usually too insecure to support them. Feeders were block cabled and, except on modern brick and concrete buildings, all wires were attached to the front of premises as the backs of most were so dilapidated that it was generally impossible to find anything to which cable could be fixed. Even in the front, wiring was made difficult by the large amount of decorative work and display.

There was also competition from other wiring. The Chinese are very fond of electrical appliances and, where landlords had neglected repairs, their homes had a maze of wiring tied up with string. “Extensions,” of the flex and tape variety, branched out from this in all directions, and it was not uncommon to see lighting flex running outside for perhaps two hundred yards or so hooked up to shop signs, window shutters. and drain pipes, to feed some member of the family down the street with light and power, because the existing electrical system was beyond repair. The power stations were badly overloaded and blackouts were frequent.  At the main Redillusion building a standby generating plant was run every evening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to relieve the municipal supply of the 16-kw load.

The Original Artists Sketch
Rediffusion Building Construction 1948
Completed Building 1949
Rediffusion Building 1950’s

The Rediffusion Building

The ground gloor was occupied by the Sales Stall and the Planning and Mapping Sections of the Engineering Staff. An impressive reception room, with its counter at the back could be seen from the street through plate windows. These windows extended from floor to ceiling for the whole length of this side of the building. The workshop, stores. etc. were in out-buildings which enclosed a large courtyard at the rear. Commercial and Programme Staff occupied the first floor and the second was given over completely to programme origination.  Located here was the Central Control Room, three Studios, each with a separate Balance and Control Cubicles, a Record Library, Filing Office, two Record Rehearsal Rooms and a Record Cutting Room. Other recording facilities available included a mobile console containing a dual tape recorder made up locally which could be wheeled into any cubicle to record or play from tape as required and a third portable tape recorder.

The whole of this floor had been sealed off and air-conditioned, thus bringing the temperature down to 75’f, quite chilly and contrasted sharply with that outside.

A system of ring wiring, which connected together the Balance and Control Cubicles, Recording Room and Central Control, comprised an eighteen-pair cable for programme circuits and other cables for cue lamp signals, telephones. and slave clock impulses.

The programme pairs were brought out to a go-way jack panel in each cubicle, together with the microphone and gramophone outlets, all padded to the same voltage level. Also on this panel was the input sockets to a fader panel and to the cubicle monitor amplifiers so that, by cross patching, any combination of circuit connections could be selected.

Permanently connected to respective pairs of the eighteen-pair programme cable were the outputs from the three studios, the local Broadcasting Corporation and the Company’s receivers and, in addition, a lining-up tone for quick fault location and route checking.

Rediffusion Interior Images from 1950

Singapore Rediffusion Front Desk
Singapore Rediffusion System Control
Singapore Rediffusion Customer Reception
Singapore Rediffusion System Workshop

Studios

Each Studio was fitted with four or six microphone sockets which were wired to the patching panel in the adjacent Balance and Control Cubicle. The layout of the second floor was such that the studios and cubicles alternated with sound-proof windows in each side of the cubicles giving a view into the studios on either side.

Although a cubicle could only control its associated studio directly, the output from the other studio could be selected on the patching panel, either for the purpose of changing studios or for using two together in a dramatic production and so maintaining continuity. This alternating layout had the advantage of providing double sound insulation between any two studios.

Acoustic treatment of the studios was an engineering headache, for the Chinese building contractors could not understand the principles of the materials that were asked for.

The treatment adopted was to have the 4 in. brick walls faced with 2 in. of slagwool, the lower 6 ft. was panelled with Q-in. planks for bass absorption and treble liveliness, and above this, up to the ceiling, the slagwool was faced with Celotex perforated tiles. The latter treatment was also applied to the ceiling. Cork tiles were stuck over the whole area of the boarded floor and acoustic filters were fitted to the air duct apertures. A removable skirting board around all sides enclosed the wiring, cleated to a backboard.

The three studios were identical electrically, so that should a fault occur during a programme, any unit could be interchanged with a spare.  As far as possible, the studio layout was also kept the same to avoid confusion to producers or announcers when changing from one cubicle to another.

Other Equipment

The Central Control Room utilized the standard equipment familiar in most Rediffusion stations. All the programme sources, with exception of the three studio outputs and the two local receivers, were passed through leveling up faders and amplifiers. It had been found essential to provide extra metering facilities for lining-up, as the setting up of a temporary outside broadcast would take a long time when the line had to be used alternatively for the sending of tones and for telephone conversation.

Use of the Control Desk monitoring meters in these circumstances would interfere unduly with the operators routine attention to programmes. Once the line characteristics were satisfactory, however, all cross-patching cords were withdrawn, and the O.B. line fed through to the input selector switches on the Control Desk and to each cubicle, via the ring wiring.
The amplifying stations were very similar to the shelter type erected in England. They were powered by  A50’s, driven by A93’s. Standard substation bays contained the H.L.L. and feeder switching panels and a tele-monitor unit, amongst other facilities. K20-type assemblies were used at the kiosk distribution points but they were mounted in ferro-concrete kiosks.

Programme Building

A large number of languages and dialects had to be catered for. Amongst those used by different communities were six dialects of Chinese, two of Malay and many Indian, besides English. As the Chinese areas were the most beneficial to develop initially, the Chinese initially formed the greater proportion of the subscribers.

Local talent was mainly limited to Singapore town which provided a large number of musical groups, and the Chinese, always industrious, built up many excellent and varied orchestras. To help in adding variety to the programmes, one of the first permanent O.B. lines linked up to two Chinese theatres and these proved to be very popular.

A total of thirty two programme-hours per day were provided, and it had been rather more easy to arrange material for the English programmes, because of the large resources of recorded American, English, Australian. and European talent which could be drawn on. Requests, however, indicated that the most popular records were limited to those made by a small number of artistes.

The most noticeable difference between subscribers in Singapore and at the UK  was the constant demand made for more and more volume. In order to get this, some subscribers tried to tap the service wiring to feed their radiograms and amplifiers. The usual procedure was to stick two pins into the wiring. When a Rediffusion van was seen to enter the street to which a fault has been traced, it would be at once spotted and the offender would smartly withdraw the pins and hide the wire. The offender would then come out to watch the wiremen looking for the fault and amiably converse with them, offering encouragement and advice.

The 1970s and 1980s

Rediffusion siezed the opportunity to present additional products, systems and services available from the parent group to in order to expand it’s business in the face of the decline in the wired radio activity in the 1980’s.
Inevitably, the knowledge, skills and experience gained in the field of electronic technology led Rediffusion to diversify. Over the years, it steadily built up a vast network of operations covering broadcasting, communications, electronics engineering, and the high technology field of systems simulation. Rediffusion Services (S) Pte Ltd was formed in 1974 with the objective of providing a number of other services. For instance, the installation and service of Central Antenna Television (CATV) systems for a number of HDB and private flats, providing sharp intenerence free reception of television programmes. The Consumer Products Department which handled rental, hire purchase and cash sales of a variety of domestic appliances.

Rediffusion Services also provided  services in the areas of radiocommunication, sound and paging, AV, and cIosed-circuit television. It provided vital information for specialist brokers of the hundreds or so commodities, updated second by second with the International Data Media Service.

The Background Music Division ensured a steady supply of mood music to suit any requirement. An experienced and highly trained crew of technicians and supervisory staff ensured that all users of Rediffusion Services products received prompt and reliable servicing at all times.

Rediffusion Services Consumer Products Department handled the rental, hire purchase and cash sale of a wide range of quality home appliances like refrigerators, washing machines and gas cookers, and of course TV receiver and VCR sets. Rediffusion Services’ TV rental services started with the inception of telecasting in Singapore. The experience and expertise acquired over the years in this field made it a leading reputed TV Rental specialist.

A team of experienced TV and VCR technicians operating from a fleet of vehicles with radio-communication facilities were backed by highly-skilled technicians and engineers.

Rediffusion Services also offered Hotelevision, a specialised service which provided the novelty of in-house movies in hotels. The equipment incorporated video cassette units and a fully automated programmed time control unit. A supply of regularly updated films completes the package.

Clemenceau Showroom
Music Library
Broadcast Desk
Hotelvision System

A Look-Back at Company Activities  in 1970’s / 1980’s

The specialised range of activities of REDIFFUSION SERVICES (SINGAPORE) PTE LTD encompassed the field of Audio, Visual and Cable Electronics and the objective was to provide a prompt, efficient and economical service to it’s customers.

REDIFFUSION SERVICES had gained a great deal of experience based on the group’s services world-wide.

The Rediffusion Group provided a programme and advertising service to more than 50 countries outside the UK, including many of Singapore’s neighbours, like Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Australia.

Rediffusion simulators provided essential training for organisations all over the world, helping manufacturers and transportation authorities to achieve safer, more efficient operational use of everything from the latest Boeing airliners to mass rapid transit systems.

Rediffusion Music supplied over 70 countries with complete background music facilities and equipment.

The name Rediffusion meant communicating in the very best ways to the whole world of modem technology.

Broadcasting

Broadcasting Desk
Programme Control Room

Each day during the 1970’s and 1980’s thousands of Rediffusion subscribers in Singapore enjoyed a large variety of programming catering to diverse tastes.

For many, Rediffusion music and entertainment made up very much a part of their day.

An extensive music library provided a wide selection of music, from ballads to the latest pops, whilst the drama department kept listeners anticipating with daily drama broadcasts.

Rediffusion also broadcasted commercial advertisements and sponsored programmes and was one of the most cost-effective
advertising medias available. Its sheer effectiveness was proven by the high rate of repeat advertising and the long list of distinguished advertisers.

Commercial Production Unit

The Commercial Production Unit produced jingles. Spot announcements and commercials for clients in the advertising, information and entertainment industry. Using a pool of talented scriptwriters. Composers, arrangers, producers, announcers and translators, it turned out highly professional productions in a variety of languages.

Rediffusion Services (S) Pte Ltd

Besides broadcasting, Rediffusion Services (S) Pte Ltd was formed in 1974 with the objective of providing a number of other services.

Rediffusion Services installed and serviced Central Antenna Television (CATV) systems for a number of HDB and private flats, providing sharp interference free reception of television programmes. Many would be familiar with the Consumer Products Department which handled rental, hire purchase and cash sales of a variety of domestic appliances. Rediffusion Services also provided services in the areas of radiocommunication, sound and paging, AV, and cIosed-circuit television. It provided vital information for specialist brokers of the hundreds or so commodities, updated second by second. with the International Data Media Service.

The Background Music Division ensured a steady supply of mood music to
suit any requirement.

An experienced and highly trained crew of technicians and supervisory staff ensured that all users of Rediffusion Services products received prompt and reliable servicing at all times

Services Display Centre
Rediffusion Services Workshop

Audio Visual Department

The use of slides and multi-projection systems together presents a low-cost yet effective way of communicating to audiences of varied sizes. Flexibility in both viewed format and design, and ease of updating made this even more attractive, economy-wise. Visual movement, if desired can be simulated quite easily with the clever features of modem AV equipment. All these add up to the possibilities of highly imaginative and attention-arresting A.V. presentations, at low cost.

Rediffusion Services represented Electrosonics, manufacturer of Eclipse, Gemini, Apollo, Saturn and ES4000 Multi-vision systems, considered top in the field of audio-visual technology for portable and permanent applications, manual or fully automated. They were also the sole agent for WESS products and Meridian lenses.

With the sophisticated range of equipment Rediffusion held and the expertise of their skilled staff, they were able to cater to all customer’s AV requirements.

Also on offer were design services incorporating AV systems for boardrooms, training rooms and conference rooms strategically installed for optimum effectiveness together with the ability to handle projects from design to fabrication

Audio Visual Department
Audio Visual Workshop

Central Antenna Television (CATV) Division

Central antenna systems made it possible for  to have first cIass colour TV reception free of distortion and interference.

Rediffusion Services was one of the largest suppliers of CATV equipment in Singapore.

By the early 1980’s About 30% of HDB apartments were fitted with CATV systems besides a large number of condominiums and commercial buildings. In short, their systems were ideal for any high-rise building requiring good TV reception.

For low buildings, particularly those surrounded by tall buildings, a common situation in Singapore – poor reception coupled with interference was one problem which Rediffusion Services overcame with their Community Antenna Service (CAS) which assured customers of a crystal-clear reception.

Singapore High Rise Apartments
Singapore Condominiums

International Data Media (IDM) Division

Rediffusion Services was a local distributor of IDM COMPAK, a world-wide realtime commodities quotation service specially developed to be the fastest service of its kind anywhere. IDM collected data direct from the major world markets, second-by-second trading information which was presented with great rapidity so that critical decision making material was displayed with the same exactness and timeliness as the traders on the floors of the markets.

IDM COMPAK was indispensable for the specialist broker who dealt in one or two of the hundreds of commodities. Eg.  Rubber, Sugar, Gold, Financial Futures, etc.

IDM had previously been established in the United States and in Europe for several years and Rediffusion Services provided this service for all 24 hours each day

Trader Dealing Display Equipment
Real Time Information Terminal

Rediffusion Background Music Division

Music Selection

Rediffusion had a growing worldwide market with their Reditune background music products and recording music from well known international artists.

This proved to be an effective aid in a sales environment, and used as an instrument in good management and in good public relations.

Every business concerned directly with people – and most businesses are – benefits tremendously from the addition of the right sort of background music. This is true whether the people are customers or employees. patients or clients, in any and every walk of life.

Rediffusion Music’s extensive library of more than 20,000 selections is the result of many years’ study and research. Customers were offered a tailored choice of music.

Rediffusion Music Library
Reditune Music Player

Special Projects Department

Sound and Paging Division

Rediffusion Services supplied the needs for public address paging, sound reinforcement for announcements and broadcasting, sound mixing for floorshows, and music coverage in banquet rooms, conferences and private or public functions.

In large buildings and complexes, communication were achieved through a variety of electronic aids besides a public address system. For example, Rediffusion Services fitted the entire communications system for the Mandarin Hotel, incorporating fingertip control of television and sound receivers, room-paging, television cameras in the main restaurant to transmit visual recordings of functions to be relayed to rooms or suites, public address and radio pocket paging systems and background music for the entire building, CCT\/ for security and monitoring systems.

Rediffusion Services also installed comprehensive communication package systems in the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Building, the Treasury Building, and the Pan Pacific Hotel.

Rediffusion Services also supplied and installed Simultaneous Interpretation Systems, (SIS) for conferences and conventions.

One such system was installed in the auditorium of the Telecoms Comcentre,
Rediffusion Services also had available a fireman evacuation intercom system to facilitate communication between firemen and evacuees at different locations at times of emergency.

Auditel Simultaneous Interpretation System
Fireman Evacuation Intercom System

Major Clientele in the Mid 1980’s


Executive Clubhouse. City CountryClub.
Royal Sabah Turf Club.
Singapore Recreation Club.
Singapore Turf Club.
Century Park Sheraton.
Cockpit Hotel lntemational Pte Ltd.
Crown Prince Hotel.
Furama Singapore.
Goodwood Park Hotel.
Hilton lntemational Singapore.
Holiday Inn Singapore.
Hotel New Otani Singapore.
Hyatt Regency Singapore.
The Mandarin Hotel.
Ming Court Hotel.
Pan Pacific Hotel.
The Pavilion Intercontinental Singapore.
Plaza Hotel.
President Merlin Hotel.
Singapore Hotel Association.
Shangri-La Hotel Ltd.
Sheraton Utama Hotel. Brunei.
York Hotel.
CIAS lnternational Airport Services Pte Ltd
Housing & Development Board.
Jurong Town Corporation.
MINDEF.
Monetary Authority of Singapore Building.
Nanyang Technological Institute.
National University Of Singapore.
Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
Post Office Savings Bank.
Public Utilities Board.
Public Works Department. 

SIA Computer Centre
Singapore Airlines Ltd
Singapore Zoological Gardens
Telecommunication Authority of Singapore
Vocational & Industrial Training Board
Urban Redevelopment Authority
Gleneagles Hospital Ltd
Kandang Kerbau Hospital
Mt Alvernia Hospital
Singapore General Hospital
Thomson Medical Centre Pte Ltd
Bank of America
Clifford Centre
Fairchild Singapore Pte Ltd
Funan Centre
Guan Bee Building
Hong Kong Telephone Co Ltd
OCBC Square
Ocean Building
RELC lnternational House
Texas Instruments Singapore Pte Ltd
United Overseas Bank Building
United Overseas Land Ltd
Ardmore Park Condominium
Balmeg Courts
Clementi Park Condominium
Concord Condominium
Leedon Height Condominium
Marine Point Condominium
Meadows Condominium
Mirabell Condominium
Orchard Bel-Air Condominium
Shelford Road Condominium Housing
Skyville & Skyscraper Flats

Rediffusion Singapore’s  30th Anniversary in 1979

To celebrate their 30th Anniversary, Rediffusion Singapore organised a series of events culminating in two variety shows. For staff and part time broadcasters, the company booked the Wonderland Amusement Park where over 2000 people attended to take advantege of free rides and gift vouchers.  Managing Director, Jack Snowden took the opportunity to present long service awards where 28 staff received 25 year gold medallions and 25 were presented with 15 year certificates.

The highlight of the celebrations was the 2 variety shows in the evening featuring many of Rediffusion’s artistes. Jack Snowden presented the top twenty ‘Grand Draw’ prizes at the show.  He is seen in the picture above with Chan Seng, Mandarin Programmes co-ordinator and Joseph Goh, the English programmes producer.

Rediffusion Singapore Long Service Staff.
Chan Seng, Jack Snowden, Joseph Goh.

Rediffusion Singapore Promotion Campaign

Showroom manager K. Y Teo during the promotion campaign with customers 1976

Singapore Colour TV Promotion 1976

Rediffusion Services (Singapore) conducted a very successful colour TV promotion campaign.

It was a joint promotion with local suppliers to offer every customer who bought or rented a colour tv from Rediffusion a very attractive gift worth $40 to $70 each, depending on the model.  The range included: Symphonia, Finlux, Philips, Sectron, Sharp, Roxy and Pye.

In order to discourage existing momochrome tv subscribers from purchasind sets from competitors, Rediffusion also introduced through direct mail, an additional offer of one month free rental for a colour rental contract or a special discount equivalent to one month’s free rental for a cash sale or hire purchase sale

Rediffusion Singapore Press Advertising

Rediffusion Singapore Staff Appointments 1976

Staff Appointments 1976
Barbara Lee Lye

Original article published as part of the Remembering Rediffusion Limited 1928-1988 website created by Gerald Clode.

The website is tribute to Rediffusion and the many thousands of staff worldwide who worked for the organisation. It includes historical information and images of all aspects of the Group’s businesses.

Associated Companies in over 175 towns in Great Britain and in Barbados, Bermuda. Canada, Ceylon, Guyana, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Malaya, Malta, Singapore, South Africa, Trinidad and West Africa etc.

Original material remains © rediffusion.info and is only to be used for non-commercial personal or research use. Any other use requires permission of the author.

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