World Television Day
📷 1: Crowds watching the first telecast by Television Singapura outside the Victoria Memorial Hall in 1963. (Source: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore)
It’s World Televison Day today (21 November), a day designated by the United Nations in 1996 to recognise television as a symbol of communication and globalisation, a “major tool in informing, channelling and affecting public opinion”.
We take television for granted now but Singapore was initially reluctant to have it. Television was first demonstrated here in an exhibition in 1952, but it took over 10 years for our first broadcast to beam in 1963. People were interested but our government was concerned about the implications. The turnabout came only in 1960 after then-Minister for Culture Mr S. Rajaratnam’s visits to television stations in Japan. It took another three years for Singapore to finally get our own television station.
On 15 February 1963 at 6pm, Singapore’s first television broadcasting service began — lasting just 1 hour and 40 minutes. Mr Rajaratnam was the first person to appear onscreen announcing that, “Tonight might well mark the start of a social and cultural revolution in our lives.” That event was watched by about 300 guests at the Victoria Memorial Hall (present day Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall), members of the public at 52 community centres, Queen Elizabeth Walk (present day Esplanade Park where the Cenotaph stands), as well as some 2,400 households that had television sets.
Television made it possible for Singaporeans to witness major local and world events in real time. By 1974, Singapore was one of the first countries in Southeast Asia to get colour television broadcasts, starting with the finals of the FIFA World Cup between West Germany and the Netherlands.
These days, the Internet and social media take centre stage in global communications. According to We are Social Singapore, in 2022, 92% of our population are Internet users, with a majority spending more than 7 hours online daily, using social media for information, interaction and entertainment. Television now plays a smaller role but our television screens have become bigger and wider, the resolution ever-better, some paired to expensive audio: all to enhance the experience of watching the world from home.
Source of statistics: We are Social Singapore 2022 Report.
📷 2: Then-Minister for Culture Mr S. Rajaratnam on television during the inauguration of Television Singapura Pilot Service in 1963. (Source: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore)