Friday, November 20, 2015

The Radio Scene in Nepal - Regional Radio in the Himalayas

We come now to the fifth topic in this mini-series of presentations on the radio scene in the high mountainous kingdom of Nepal, and on this occasion, we look at the regional radio stations throughout their country, as well as the information regarding QSL cards from Radio Nepal.
            Beginning in the early 1980s, a whole new network of regional radio broadcasting stations was installed throughout Nepal, with financial aid and technical assistance from Japan.  Initially, the program feed from new studios in Kathmandu was by shortwave to the regional locations, though a higher quality program feed became available subsequently when a system of microwave units originating in Kathmandu and fanning out to the regional stations was inaugurated.    
            The first new facilities were officially inaugurated in a special ceremony on May 9, 1983, with a new suite of studios in Kathmandu, new mediumwave and shortwave transmitters on the edge of Kathmandu, and a new regional mediumwave station, complete with studios and a 100 kW transmitter at Pokhara, 85 miles north west of the capital city.  The operating channel for this new regional station was 684 kHz and its signal was heard quite widely in the subcontinental areas.  An additional 10 kW transmitter was installed as a standby unit.
            Two  more 100 kW regional stations with their own studios and an emergency 10 kW transmitter were constructed in Dhanakuta in eastern Nepal (648 kHz), and at Surkhet in the midwestern area of their country (576 kHz).  Two additional smaller stations at 10 kW each were installed at Dipayal in the far west (810 kHz), and Bardibas, 40 miles south east of the city (1143 kHz).  This latter station was originally intended to operate as a second program stream for the Kathmandu Valley, though these days it seems to be off the air.
            Interestingly, Radio Nepal announced some time around the turn of the century that they planned to erect a regional shortwave station, in addition to the main stations on the edge of Kathmandu.  This new station was to be co-located with a mediumwave station that was already on the air; it was intended to give coverage to the western areas of the country; and it would be a safety backup facility if any event should take the main Kathmandu station off the air. 
            The location for this intended new shortwave station would be near Surkhet, cosited with the 100 kW mediumwave station already on the air on the western side of the country.  However, nothing more has been heard about this projected station during the past 15 years.
            It is true, that there are many QSL cards from Radio Nepal in the collections of international radio monitors in various parts of the world.  However, obtaining a QSL from Radio Nepal could always be quite difficult.  The Heritage collection in Indianapolis holds many such cards, though most of them were obtained during personal visits to the station.
            For a couple of years, an onsite volunteer did issue QSL cards on behalf of Radio Nepal.  This was back around 1983 and 1984 and the Honorary QSL Secretary was Miss Mohini Shepherd.  During this time, Mohini was also providing uptodate news and information about Radio Nepal for broadcast in the old AWR DX program, Radio Monitors International.
            The early QSL cards from Radio Nepal were generally plain text cards with occasional printing variations, though in the 1990s, a full color country snow scene was featured on their regular QSL card.

            Back around half a century ago, it was thought that there was a small BFBS British Forces Broadcasting station on the air at the British Army Gurkha base at Dharan in eastern Nepal.  However, it was said subsequently that this broadcast facility was simply a cable radio service over the camp amplifier system.  These days though, BFBS is on the air on FM in Kathmandu itself.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 350)