Friday, November 25, 2011

Canada on Shortwave: VOA and RCI relays

Back during the 1930s, when shortwave broadcasting was becoming quite popular in many countries throughout the world, it was a common practice for one station in one country to relay the programming from another distant station in another country. Thus for example, the programming from shortwave KDKA in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania was heard at times on relay via shortwave stations located in England, and Holland, and Germany and Australia.
Conversely, the programming from shortwave VK2ME in Australia was heard at times via shortwave stations in the United States, and Canada, and England. Quite frequently, programming from radio stations in the United States was also heard on relay via radio stations in Canada.
In February 1941, the CBC in Canada inaugurated a low power shortwave station located at Vercheres, along the St Lawrence estuary on the northern edge of suburban Montreal in Province Quebec. This station contained three shortwave transmitters, two at 7½ kW and one at 200 watts. The purpose for this station was to provide radio coverage for French speaking people in country areas who were unable to receive the programming from existing mediumwave transmitters.
A report in an Australian radio magazine published in July 1941, just a few months after the station was inaugurated, states that the 7½ kW transmitter under the callsign CBFY was noted on 11705 kHz with a program of dance music from NBC in New York. Four years later, in October 1945, a report in an American radio magazine states that callsign CBFX on 9630 kHz at the same location was also noted with a regular daily relay of NBC programming from New York.
If all of the details were known, it is probable that Vercheres shortwave in Canada was taking a regular relay from NBC New York throughout all those years. This NBC programming, beginning on February 1, 1942, and extending well beyond the already mentioned 1945, was on the air in the United States under the control of the Voice of America. Thus, it would appear that CBC Vercheres in Canada operated as a part time relay station on behalf of the Voice of America for several years.
Back around the same era, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Montreal took out a relay from an American shortwave station for coverage into islandic and continental Europe. This was before the large Sackville shortwave station was established for Radio Canada International.
Documents in the office of Radio Australia in Melbourne state that the CBC in Canada took out a relay via the American shortwave station, WRUL near Boston in Massachusetts, beginning in March 1941. These shortwave broadcasts were on the air for the benefit of Canadian service personnel on duty in Europe, with messages from family members at home in Canada.

In August of that same year, a new program in the French language was produced in the CBC studios in Montreal Canada and broadcast over the same 50 kW shortwave station WRUL at Boston in the United States. This programming was in the French language under the title “Canada Speaks to France” and it was was beamed towards continental France.
The new RCI shortwave station at Sackville was officially taken into regular service on February 25, 1945. Three months later, in May, this station was heard in New Zealand with a relay of the Voice of America programming in the German language. The broadcast began with the identification announcement in French, “Ici Radio Canada”, and then followed the German program from the VOA studios in New York City.
At the time, two programs in the German language were on the air daily from RCI Sackville,
corresponding to the two time periods in Germany, breakfast & lunch time. There were just two personnel making up the German Service at Radio Canada International during this early era. It is not known at this stage as to whether the RCI relay of VOA in German was an occasional event, perhaps a fill in when other programming was not available, or whether this was a regular daily relay during this era.
This VOA relay via RCI Sackville was monitored on approximately 11700 kHz. Subsequent monitoring reports show that callsign CKXA on 11705 kHz was often heard in Australia & New Zealand with German programming. Several international radio monitors received QSL cards verifying the reception of CKXA on 11705 kHz, and it is probable that these cards verified the VOA relay via RCI Sackville.
On a more recent occasion, Radio Canada International at Sackville carried another relay on behalf of the Voice of America. On Sunday November 26 in the year 2000, a planned maintenance of the power systems at the BBC Atlantic Relay Station on Ascension Island took place. During that time period the Voice of America was normally on the air for a half hour via two transmitters at 250 kW each.
As a fill in measure, VOA took out a relay via RCI Sackville, for just a half hour, on the same two channels, 15390 kHz & 17875 kHz, for programming in Spanish to Latin America. The half hour ended with the RCI Identification Signal, made up of the first four notes of their National Anthem, O Canada.
It is understood that the two transmitters in Sackville were also operating at full power, at 250 kW each. The signal was strong as heard in the target areas, and also as heard in many areas in the United States, as well as in Australia & New Zealand.
By special arrangement by Dan Ferguson at the VOA headquarters in Washington DC, all correct reports of the one time VOA transmissions via RCI Sackville were verified with the correct transmitter location, shown as Sackville in Canada, and not Ascension Island on that particular date.
Thus in this feature on “Shortwave in Canada”, we see that:-
* Canada took out a shortwave relay to Europe via WRUL in Boston in the middle of last century.
* The regional shortwave station at Vercheres in Canada acted as a part time relay for VOA programming during the era of World War 2.
* VOA was noted with a relay for their German programming via Sackville in Canada back in 1945.
* VOA took out a special one day relay for their programming in Spanish to Latin America in 2000.
* Recent relay from Radio Marti via RCI Sackville
(NWS 127 via Adrian Pterson)