Friday, November 25, 2011

Minivan Radio for the Maldives

Recently we were asked the question: What is the story regarding Minivan Radio, the shortwave radio broadcasting service beamed to the Maldive Islands, out there in the Indian Ocean? In response, Jeff White at Radio Miami International, WRMI in Miami Florida, provided us with an excellent overview of this radio broadcasting service that was on the air for a period of just three years.
The word Minivan in Diveh, the national language in the Maldive Islands, means “Independent”. Minivan Radio, during its brief life span, maintained offices in several different countries, including England & Sri Lanka, and also in Male, the capital city in the Maldive Islands. The programming, always in Maldivian Divehi, was produced in England.
The first one-day test transmissions were broadcast on 11525 kHz from Bulgaria from 1630 - 1730 UTC on August 18, 2004. This original one time test transmission was made at 100 kW during the first half hour, and at 250 kW during the second half hour. Monitoring reports in the Pacific indicated poor modulation during the first half hour though with better modulation during the second half hour.
BBC Monitoring stated that their monitoring observations indicated a site at Kostinbrod in
Bulgaria, and we would suggest that this was for the first half hour of the broadcast. We would suggest that the second half hour at increased power was made from the Plovdiv site in Bulgaria.
Regular transmissions for Radio Minivan began just one week later, August 25, 2004, from the Julich site in Germany. The frequency was 13855 kHz, the power was 100 kW, and the time was adjusted to 1600 - 1700 UTC. This initial broadcast was heard by Jerry Berg in suburban Boston with an identification announcement stating WRMI in Miami; it was heard by Jose Jacob in India with jamming; it was heard by Anker Petersen in Denmark with side band interference; and by Victor Goonetilleke in Colombo Sri Lanka with tone jamming.
Glenn Hauser, reporting in Monitoring Times in the United States, states that an additional test transmission was made from Bulgaria on September 3, 2004, from 1630 - 1730 UTC on two channels, 9985 & 11535 kHz.
During the devastating tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean after the December 26 2004 earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, Minivan Radio provided much needed communications for the outlying islands in the Maldives. Most of the islands were overwhelmed with water inundation, and
telephone & internet services were no longer functioning.
On January 1, 2006, the shortwave transmissions from Germany were temporarily suspended, following a raid on the Minivan offices in Sri Lanka, though the programming was still available on the internet. However, three weeks later the shortwave broadcasts from Minivan Radio were resumed, this time on 11800 kHz, from Julich in Germany.
Around the middle of the year 2006, a listener survey was conducted, and it was determined that ¼ of the total population of the Maldive Islands were listening regularly to the shortwave broadcasts of Minivan Radio, even though the signal was jammed in the capital city area.
In March 2007, the shortwave broadcasts were suspended in anticipation that a local FM license would be granted. However, the license was not forthcoming, and so once again the shortwave broadcasts were resumed, still from Julich in Germany at 100 kW and still daily at 1600 - 1700 UTC, this time on 11725 kHz.
However, the last day of shortwave broadcasting was August 31, 2007. The service was no longer needed, since the Minivan organization won the elections.
Interestingly, the Radio Minivan office in Male is co-sited with the Minivan News Service, and with the Minivan Daily newspaper, though Minivan Radio is not organizationally connected with either of the two other services.
QSL cards for the Minivan programming were issued by Media Broadcast in Germany and by WRMI in Florida. QSL letters were issued from the Minivan office in England.
(NWS 133 via Adrian Peterson)