Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Australian States on Shortwave: New South Wales

The concept of shortwave broadcasting for wide area coverage featured quite early in the radio broadcasting scene in Australia. Back in the year 1925, plans were announced for the establishment of a new mediumwave broadcasting station in Sydney, the capital city of the Australian state of New South Wales. The new radio station would be owned and operated by a political party, the Labor Party, and the callsign would 2LC. It was also stated in the newspaper announcement, that a shortwave transmitter would be co-sited with the mediumwave transmitter for the purpose of relaying the local programming to distant listeners throughout Australia.
When the station was inaugurated a few weeks later, it was on the air under a new callsign, 2KY, and no mention was ever made again of the projected shortwave relay unit.
However, during the following year 1926, Ray Allsop, the chief engineer at what was at the time a new commercial radio station, 2BL in Sydney, began to relay the mediumwave programming over his own amateur radio station, 2YG, located in his own home at suburban Coogee. During the following year, he transferred his amateur station to an empty house at Roseville and continued the shortwave relays from this new location.
During that same year, 1927, the AWA communication station located at Pennant Hills on the edge of Sydney began a relay on shortwave from what was at the time another new commercial station in Sydney, station 2FC. These famous broadcasts were transmitted worldwide at the higher power of 12 kW under the generic program title “Empire Broadcasts”.
It so happened around this same time period that the two commercial stations 2BL & 2FC were amalgamated, and soon afterward taken over by the government to ultimately become the Australian version of the ABC. At this stage, the AWA shortwave station began a regular international broadcasting service under the well known historic callsign VK2ME.
Up until the decisive year 1939, the only shortwave broadcasting service in New South Wales was on the air from this AWA station, VK2ME. However, soon after the outbreak of war in continental Europe, the new Australia Calling, Radio Australia, was inaugurated, and the AWA callsign at Pennant Hills became VLQ. Other broadcast callsigns in use at this station have been VLK, VLN, and VLI. Radio Australia terminated its usage of the Pennant Hills station towards the end of the year 1944, though the station remained in service for international radio communications.
In the meantime, another more modern radio station for use in international communication was under construction at another location, suburban Doonside. It was never intended that this new communication station would ever be used for broadcast programming, but Doonside was in use temporarily on the occasion of the Royal Visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1956 for the relay of news and commentaries.
Then again, the Doonside station also relayed news and commentaries, and actuality broadcasts to other overseas countries from the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1953. The AWA Pennant Hills station remained active until the Olympic Games ended, as a precautionary measure just in case its service was needed.
During the year 1936, several test broadcasts were noted on air with the readings from a technical manual under the callsign VK2MD. These broadcasts were made from the AWA electronics factory in the outer Sydney suburb of Ashfield. At the time it was thought that these test broadcasts were made from a transmitter that was destined for installation as VPD in Suva Fiji, but instead it turned up as VK6ME in Perth Western Australia. However, it is known these days that both transmitters were constructed at the same time, and it is suggested that both were tested during the same time period under the same callsign VK2MD.
The ABC shortwave station VLI, located beyond Sydney’s outer suburb of Liverpool, was on the with 2 kW for 36 years from 1948 to 1983. This unit carried the regular mediumwave service from 2BL and/or 2FC for the benefit of costal listeners without a local mediumwave station. When the transmitter failed, this shortwave service ended.
As the final entry for shortwave broadcasting in the Australian state of New South Wales, we remember the chronohertz station VNG. Originally, this time ticking broadcast was on the air from a series of 10 kW transmitters co-located with the ABC shortwave station at Lyndhurst in Victoria. However, Lyndhurst was closed at the end of the year 1987 and some of the transmitters were removed and re-installed at the aviation radio station located near Llandilo out from Sydney. The VNG chronohertz service was on the air at this location from 1988 until it was finally closed out in 2002.
Thus, shortwave broadcasting in the Australian state of New South Wales was on the air one way or another for nearly 80 years, but no high powered stations are on the air in in New South Wales these days. All of the stations mentioned in this feature article have issued multitudes of QSL cards over the years and these are now scattered throughout the world in the prized collections of multitudes of international radio monitors.
We should mention that in recent time, a few low powered stations have been licensed in the Sydney area for broadcast on the tropical shortwave bands. For example, a small transmitter that was on the air previously with HCJB in Quito Ecuador is now noted on 3210 kHz running around 50 watts with American religious programming. Maybe more of these low powered shortwave operations may make an appearance on air in New South Wales, and perhaps elsewhere in Australia, in time to come.
(AWR Wavescan NWS 104 via Adrian Peterson)