Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Radio Broadcasting on the Island of Cyprus-The Early Years
The earliest settlements go way back to the very earliest Middle Eastern times; and the first Greek settlers migrated onto the island around 1200 BC. According to their ancient legends, Cyprus was the birthplace of Aphrodite, or Venus as she was known by the Latins; and early Christianity was introduced to the island in the year 45 AD by the traveling missionaries, St. Paul & St. Barnabas. In the year 1489, the Cypriot Queen Catherine Cornaro sold the island to the merchant city of Venice in Italy.
During the era of British colonialism, Cyprus was absorbed into the Empire in 1878, though it was not declared a Crown Colony until the year 1925. England granted independence to Cyprus in 1960, though by treaty several sovereign bases were retained for the usage of their armed forces. Turkey took over the northern part of the island in 1974. Along with several other financially struggling European nations last year, Cyprus requested a financial bailout of E17Bn (17 Billion Euros).
It was in 1872 that the Eastern Telegraph Company opened an undersea cable service linking the island to Europe, and thus the rest of the world.
On the wireless scene, the famous Marconi announced in 1911 the installation of a massive high powered longwave station on Cyprus as a link in the Imperial Wireless Scheme, connecting England with its colonies all the way from the Motherland to Australia and New Zealand, though this entire project was never implemented. On the radio scene, the colonial government first issued amateur radio licenses in 1925, though this was for receivers only, not for transmitters.
Then in the early 1930s, the British established a navy communication station on the island, and the probable location was in what became the Episkopi Sovereign Base, some 10 miles west of the regional capital, Limassol. In more recent time, it is known that the Episkopi Radio Station was located specifically at Akrotiri almost adjacent to, and a little southwest of, the powerful BBC Mediumwave Station at Lady’s Mile.
In 1959, as the WRTVHB states, a broadcast unit was on the air at the British communication station at Episkopi with a daily service in English from 1200 - 1530 UTC on 7130 kHz at ½ kW. A service in Arabic was also in the planning syage.
It was probable that this new shortwave service in the Middle East, temporary and experimental, was intended to grow into a larger facility akin to the earlier Radio Sharq al Adna. This new radio service, under the title Radio Independent Transmitting Unit ITU, was on the air apparently for no more than a few months, and the entire project was seemingly transferred to the island of Malta.
Interestingly, this same shortwave radio station at Akrotiri in Cyprus was on the air with another broadcast service, dubbed as the infamous Lincolnshire Poacher. This powerful shortwave station was on the air 11 times daily, beginning on the hour from 1200 UTC through 2200 UTC, and there were always three channels in parallel in the USB, Upper Side Band mode.
This clandestine station was titled the Lincolnshire Poacher because its introductory music two bars long was taken from the well known English folk song melody with the same name. This station transmitted coded messages to distant spies, with the usage of a one time only numbers pad. The numbers were read by an electronically produced woman’s voice with the presentation of exactly 200 groups of five figure numbers on each occasion.
International radio monitors back at that era tell us that this Lincolnshire Poacher signed on somewhere around the mid 1970s. The last known broadcast from the Lincolnshire Poacher, operated it is said by the British Intelligence Agency MI6, was on June 29, 2008. The communication callsign for this station was MKE.
We go back to the 1930s and we find that another radio communication station was established in Limassol itself. This was a temporary facility established in 1932 and it was replaced by a permanent station at Larnaca under the callsign ZFE. Station ZFE was taken into service on February 5, 1934 for ship-to-shore communication and for international communication whenever the cable service was interrupted.
Then 17 years later, an updated communication station was constructed, with the transmitter base at Saranta Spilia and the receiver base at Kolokoshi. This new Cyprus Radio, with callsigns 5BA, 5BC & 5BG, was officially inaugurated on May 7, 1951.
For occasional special broadcasts, Cyprus Radio was in use for the relay of programming to and from the BBC in London. For example, on August 19, 1956, Cyprus Radio carried a relay from the BBC London on behalf of BFBS Radio on Cyprus.
After a couple of weeks, we plan to present the next feature item in the radio scene on the island of Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 235 via Adrian Peterson)