Monday, December 03, 2012

Afghanistan Returns to the Air on Shortwave-Off Site Relays

In our progressive series of topics on the radio broadcasting scene in the west Asian country of Afghanistan, we come to the era of attempted renovation and rebuilding, somewhere around 10 years ago.  Many aid organizations poured in with supplies and personnel in an attempt to resuscitate the damaged country and its wounded people.

            Equally foremost among these many endeavors was the attempt to rebuild the national broadcasting system throughout the country.  Facilities damaged and destroyed and almost non-existent were rebuilt, new equipment was brought in, the beginnings of a revived radio system was implemented, and numerous organizations began radio broadcasts into Afghanistan from many different external locations.

            In this edition of Wavescan, we investigate the story of the re-implementation of shortwave broadcasting in Kabul Afghanistan; and in particular, the offsite usage of shortwave relay stations in other countries.

            The English radioman who was stationed in Kabul around this era, the authoritative Martin Hadlow, informs us that USAID installed a bevy of electronic equipment in Kabul at this stage, so that Radio Afghanistan could be heard locally, and so that relays of this programming could be beamed into Afghanistan from high powered shortwave transmitters in other countries. 

            This foreign aid included studio production equipment, as well as satellite uplink facilities; and all of these significant radio endeavors were implemented around May of the year 2002.  At this stage, Radio Afghanistan was on the air locally with:-

                        3 mediumwave transmitters rated at 200 watts, 10 kW & 50 kW

                        2 local FM transmitters

                        and no shortwave transmitters.

            Offsite relays from Radio Afghanistan were carried by shortwave transmitters in four different countries during the years 2002 & 2003.  Initial test broadcasts with a satellite relay from Kabul were transmitted over shortwave stations in Austria & Russia around mid May 2002.

            These introductory test broadcasts began on May 13 and they ended three days later on May 15.  The New Zealand DX Times stated that test broadcasts via Austria were carried by the 500 kW transmitter located at Moosbrunn, out from Vienna, with its massive rotatable antenna system, on 17870 kHz from 1330 - 1430 UTC.

            This same test program relay was also on the air in parallel via a shortwave transmitter somewhere in Russia, though the New Zealand DX Times does not specify the actual location of this station nor the frequency in use at the time.  It is probable that these details will never be known.

            Preliminary test broadcasts were also carried out from a 500 kW transmitter located at Kvitsoy in Norway during this same time period towards the end of May.  These test broadcasts were radiated consecutively on 17525 kHz & 18920 kHz.

            However, when the regular relay of programming from Radio Afghanistan was on the air on a daily basis, neither of the stations in Austria nor Russia were taken into usage; instead these relays were noted on the air from Norway and the United Arab Emirates.

            This new regular relay of programming from Radio Afghanistan commenced on June 1, 2002 and it was carried by the shortwave station at Kvitsoy in Norway on 18940 kHz, and by the shortwave station at Dhabbaya in the United Arab Emirates on 15420 kHz.  A few weeks later, the frequency for the Dhabbaya broadcasts was modified to 15485 kHz.  Both transmitters, in Norway & in the UAE, are rated at 500 kW.

            During the following year 2003, the World Radio TV Handbook listed the same two shortwave channels for these shortwave relays on behalf of Radio Afghanistan.  However, one of the European DX magazines noted at this stage that the morning service was on the air from the United Arab Emirates; and the afternoon service, which was on the air from Norway, was somewhat irregular.  

            It would appear that these offsite relays on behalf of Radio Afghanistan were on the air for a period of a little over a year.  The available evidence would suggest that they were terminated at the end of June 2003.

            When we take up the story of radio in Afghanistan again, we will draw attention to the large number of shortwave stations and organizations that were on the air with programming beamed into Afghanistan from numerous overseas countries.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 197 via Adrian Peterson)