HISTORY OF RADIO IN BRITISH GUIANA
The Ovaltine Show was a show for the little people. In this picture, the real stars are in the front row. Can you identify them?
Behind them – left to right – are Rafiq Khan (Program Director), M. R. Lam (Agent for Ovaltine), Unidentified Person, Olga Lopes-Seale (Announcer) and E. R. Burrowes (Quiz Master).
Radio broadcasts were started in Guyana (then British Guiana) in the 1920s by a number of enthusiasts. In 1926, just 4 years after the British Broadcasting Company (later the British Broadcasting Corporation) started regular broadcasting in Britain, there was a small wired service that relayed broadcasts, especially from the BBC’s Daventry transmitter, over the Georgetown telephone system. From 1927, however, experimental short wave broadcasts (on 47 meters and later on 43.86 meters) were introduced for two hours a week. This lasted until 1931 when economic considerations brought the effort to an end.
In 1935, broadcasts were resumed in order to receive commentaries on the current MCC cricket matches. They were so successful that two radio stations VP3BG and VP3MR were established and operated on a commercial basis until they merged in May 1938 to form the British Guiana United Broadcasting Co. Ltd. (operating station ZFY).
Station ZFY operated from the main post office in Georgetown until the post office was destroyed in the Great Fire of Georgetown in February 1945. The radio station was then moved to North Road and New Garden Street, near to the Bourda cricket ground. The building that housed the studio was a reconditioned dwelling house west of the present Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic church. The radio station was shut down early those days – at 9.00 p.m.- with John Phillip Sousa’s Washington Post March.
Interestingly, ZFY had a significant Trinidad audience. For many Trinidadians, it was the main or only source of religious broadcasts and of Indian musical entertainment. Even after September 1947, when Radio Trinidad was inaugurated, ZFY retained a sizeable Trinidadian listenership.
A medium-wave transmitter was added to the existing short-wave transmitter in 1949.
In July 1950, the controlling interest of ZFY was purchased by Overseas Rediffusion Ltd., and for the first time foreign capital was involved in local radio. Some improvements were made, and in 1951 the station became Radio Demerara… continued…
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