Myanmar Thailand Cambodia Vietnam Laos Malaysia Singapore Malaysia Brunei Indonesia TImor Leste Philippines
  Show Colonial Era Map, ca. 1939*





Hong Kong




The Philippines




The BBC has historically maintained a presence, to varying degrees, in the region now known as South East Asia. This site explores the BBC's role in South East Asia during Great Britain's late colonial and early post-colonial periods (1927-1961) through two primary avenues.

First, we investigate the instances when the BBC produced broadcasts about the region, focusing on news coverage, occasional field recordings, and cultural programming intended exclusively for the audience in the United Kingdom.

Second, we examine the BBC's presence within the broader historical context of the British Empire. The Empire categorized its territories into dominions and colonies, and the BBC Charter included an obligation to reach its expatriate audience in both. This encompassed dominions like Canada and Australia, as well as colonies such as India and those in Southeast Asia.

The British colonies in South East Asia held a special place in both the content and the broadcasting history of the BBC. This region featured prominently in various BBC broadcasts, reflecting its strategic importance to the Empire. The BBC covered significant events, news stories, and cultural narratives from the British colonies of  (Burma (now Myanmar), Malaya (part of present-day Malaysia), Singapore, North Borneo (now Sabah, part of Malaysia), Sarawak (now part of Malaysia) and  Hong Kong, which while geographically and culturally distinct from South East Asia, is also  included in this database as it played a significant role in British colonial history and the BBC’s regional influence during  the period. highlighting their relevance to the British Empire.

Other territories and nation-states in the region that were not British colonies experienced the BBC's presence in different ways. They received BBC broadcasts through occasional topical content or else received BBC broadcasts via shortwave transmission. Additionally, these regions were often included in BBC coverage due to their significant roles in historical events, particularly during the  Second World War and the Cold War that followed.

Trace the BBC’s Presence in South East Asia


BBC Empire Service

December 1922 was when the British Broadcasting Company began its operations. A decade later, the BBC started to broadcast on shortwave to the Empire.


BBC Transcription Service

In 1932, the BBC approved in principle of the establishment of a Department to produce records for Empire distribution.


Far Eastern Service

In 1937, the BBC began planning a shortwave transmitting station to relay BBC Empire signals from the United Kingdom to the Far East.


London Calling Asia

A programme in English for South and South East Asia and the Far East.  It was produced by the BBC’s Far Eastern Service and had its first broadcast on 13 May 1951 as a recorded transmission.


BBC Field Recordings

BBC produced incidental sounds from the field to use in broadcasts and transcription services.


BBC Written Archive

A resource page for the Written Archives of the BBC Empire Service


General Gerald Templer

Extract from address to Malayan villagers after murder of government employee by Communist terrorists. With interpreter.

Harmonizing with the Temiar

At the beginning of December, 1941. the Malaya Broadcasting Corporation dispatched its experimental mobile recording unit on its first expedition. This article traces the entangled history of Broadcasting and anthropology.

A Shipping Agent to South East Asia

Mr. George Simpson is interviewed by Mr. Bill Dorward, covering Simpson's work in Singapore, British North Borneo, Penang, Malaya, and Hong Kong.

*Map borders are approximate. Source: Pluvier, Jan M. Historical Atlas of South-East Asia, 1995. E.J. Brill. p48, 49, 53