Tuesday, May 30, 2017

New Shortwave Station in Australia

In an unexpected and almost dramatic move, a commercially operated mediumwave radio broadcasting station in Australia has been granted a license to relay its programming in parallel over a separate shortwave transmitter.  This move on the part of a commercial broadcasting station in Australia is in stark contra-distinction to the closure in recent years by the ABC and Radio Australia of their entire network of shortwave stations throughout the island continent.  The manager of mediumwave station 4KZ in Innisfail North Queensland, announces that his new shortwave transmitter will be inaugurated during this month of May and it will carry parallel programming to the underpopulated areas of the outback in the northern areas of the peninsula and the gulf.     
            In comparatively recent times, a few low powered shortwave stations have been inaugurated in Australia, though they generally function as hobby stations on a spasmodic basis.  Then too, in the pre-World War II era, a significant number of amateur radio stations in Australia did broadcast their own locally produced programming on shortwave, on very inconsistent scheduling.  On a few notable occasions in early times, the station engineer of a fully licensed radio broadcasting station would relay the programming from his mediumwave station over his own amateur transmitter, and as time went by, this amateur operation grew into a full powered shortwave broadcasting station.
            However, a specifically planned shortwave function to extend the coverage area of a commercially operated mediumwave station in Australia is very rare, and it has occurred previously only three times in the past almost one hundred years.  Let’s take a look at this story, with all events in chronological order, and we will begin with two projected stations that were never installed.
            Back in the year 1925, a political party, the Labour Party, announced plans to establish its own mediumwave station in Sydney, Australia’s largest city.  Three projected callsigns for this new broadcasting station were considered, 2IC, 2TH and 2LC, though when the station was inaugurated, the official callsign was 2KY, which is still on the air to this day.
            The new 2KY was official inaugurated in the Trades Hall at 4 Goulburn Street in Sydney on October 31,1925.  During one of the many opening speeches, Chief Engineer Ernest Beard stated that arrangements were being made to install an additional transmitter, on shortwave, for wide area coverage.  However, due to political differences, no license was granted for this planned parallel operation on shortwave by 2KY.       
            Three years later in May 1928, another commercial radio station in Australia applied for a shortwave license and they requested 5 kW on 70 or 80 metres for coverage into widespread country areas in the center of the Australian continent.  This commercial station was 5CL with new studios in Hindmarsh Square Adelaide, and a new 5 kW mediumwave transmitter at Brooklyn Park. 
            However, at the same time as 5CL in Adelaide was denied a shortwave service, mediumwave 3UZ in Melbourne was developing its own parallel shortwave service.  (Seven years later, 5CL was taken over as the South Australian headquarters of the newly formed government owned ABC network.)
            Now we come to the story of the four occasions when a commercial mediumwave station in Australia was successfully granted a license for a supplementary shortwave transmitter, and first up is the aforementioned 3UZ in Melbourne.
            In April 1928, Engineer L. C. Glew with the commercial station 3UZ in Melbourne Victoria began a shortwave relay over his own amateur transmitter in his suburban home.  This procedure was a rather common practice in both the United States and Australia back during that era.
            Give two more years, and Engineer Glew completed the construction of an additional shortwave transmitter which this time he installed alongside the mediumwave transmitter at their studios in 45 Bourke Street in downtown Melbourne.  The original power from this new shortwave transmitter was 120 watts, though it was subsequently increased to 500 watts.  Their program relay was heard on 32 metres, approximately 9725 kHz.
            Interestingly, the well known Adelaide commercial station, 5AD, organized its own pre-war DX radio club, and they were on the air generally on Sundays with special programming for shortwave listeners.  Initially in 1934, these special programs were broadcast over the suburban amateur station VK5WB, though soon afterwards the 5AD Radio Club obtained its own shortwave license and transmitter, and they were on the air under the experimental callsign VK5DI.
            Shortwave station VK5DI was inaugurated during the year 1935 and they were on the air usually in two different sessions on Sundays, initially in the 40 metre amateur band, though in later years, sometimes also in the 20 metre band.  The shortwave broadcasts from 5DI were heard throughout Australia and New Zealand, and occasionally even in the United States. 
            This station also used the call of the Kookaburra bird as part of its sign on routine, as did several other shortwave stations in Australia back during that era.  The last known broadcast from special shortwave station 5DI was made on Sunday August 13, 1939; and during the early part of World War 2, the small shortwave transmitter was held for safekeeping in the city newspaper office, where  it was open to public view.
            Programming for the 5DI shortwave broadcasts on Sundays was always presented live, and it was usually compiled from some of the highlights of the broadcasts from mediumwave 5AD during the previous week.  Reception reports to VK5DI were verified with their own specific QSL card, though none of these cards has ever surfaced during the past many years.
            According to the available news releases, the new commercial shortwave service from 4KZ at Innisfail in North Queensland is scheduled for introduction during this month of May (2017).  The suggested operating hours are from 4:00 pm to 9:00 am daily with 1½ kW on 5055 kHz.  The antenna system is an inverted V, beamed a little to the northwest.
            Innisfail is a small coastal city with a population of some 30,000 people.  The main industries are tourism, rare tropical fruits and sugar.  The annual production of bananas is 9,000 tons, and the annual production of sugar cane is 3.1 million tons.  Australia’s largest sugar mill, the Victoria Mill, is located at nearby Ingham.

            Radio station 4KZ was inaugurated in Innisfail in September 1967 with 5 kW on 531 kHz, though the power has since been increased to 10 kW.  These days, there are five radio stations in the North Queensland Radio Group; 4KZ and its four sister stations together with  eight low power translator stations, making up a combined total of 20 mediumwave and FM transmitters.  This radio aggregate provides widespread coverage to the Cape York Peninsula and the areas adjoining the Gulf of Carpentaria.  The current manager for the 4KZ stations is Al Kirton, who himself is also an amateur radio operator with the Queensland callsign VK4FFKZ.
(AWR Wavescan-NWS