Monday, March 18, 2019

What is the Future for VOA Saipan?

Radio Stations in Saipan (World Radio Maps)
      A Shortwave Station with three or four Consecutive Callsigns
Two weeks back here in Wavescan, we presented Part 1 in our mini-series regarding the story of one of the major shortwave stations that was installed on the island of Saipan in the Western Pacific.  The earliest beginnings for this shortwave station, KYOI on Saipan, can be traced back to mediumwave station KUAM on the island of Guam, and their intended plan in 1975 to install a 100 kW shortwave station for wide area coverage in the Pacific. 

The owner of mediumwave KUAM on Guam was Lawrence Berger, who also owned two other radio/TV station complexes in the Pacific; WVUV in Pago Pago American Samoa and KHVH in Honolulu Hawaii.  Five years later (1980), the unfulfilled plan for his shortwave station on Guam was transferred to a new location on Saipan.  Back at that time, shortwave radio was hugely popular among the younger generation in Japan, and the new KYOI hoped to appeal to a large audience who enjoyed modern American and Japanese music.

This new station was owned by Marcom, Mariana Communications Inc, a limited liability company with 50% shares held by Lawrence Berger, and the remaining shares held by Fred Zeder and Adrian Perry.  The chosen American callsign was KYOI, and YOI in the Japanese language suggests “good” and “joy”.

The Marcom radio company procured 8 acres of brush jungle at Agingan Point on the southwest coast of Saipan and they cleared it for their new shortwave station.  Work on the new Saipan shortwave station began in 1982, and a subsequent photograph as published in the British radio magazine Practical Wireless for March 1983 showed the new building for KYOI under construction. 

This solid concrete transmitter building, with an internal area of 2,000 square feet, was designed to withstand the winds of a typhoon up to 150 mph, and an earthquake up to level 3.  The transmitter building also contained a small co-ordinating studio and office.

Initially, Marcom announced that a 100 kW Harris shortwave transmitter would be installed, but instead they procured a 100 kW Continental from Dallas Texas, Model No 418D2.  An internal computer system was incorporated into the transmitter itself and this was programmed to automatically change the operating frequency four times a day.

The original high gain antenna system at 23 db was manufactured by TCI, Model 611, and it was suspended from two towers 170 ft high.  The antenna was beamed towards Tokyo at 340 degrees, though it also gave a good back beam radiation towards New Zealand.  A staff of six technical personnel maintained the station for its non-stop 24 hour a day operation.

In addition, the station was also provided with its own 450 kW diesel operated power generator, as well as a water catchment system with a capacity of 2500 gallons.  The first test signals from the new shortwave station KYOI were noted in Australia on December 17, 1982 when test tones were transmitted on 15190 kHz.

Programming for the new shortwave station was produced in two languages, Japanese and English, by the Drake Chenault Company in Los Angeles California, and the recorded tapes were air freighted to Saipan each week.  The programming was then transferred into the computer system at KYOI, up to one week in advance of the broadcast date. 

Regular programming consisted almost entirely of non stop modern style music with station announcements and advertisements in both Japanese and English.  The time call was given in Japanese Standard Time.

However, after just three years on the air, commercial shortwave station KYOI on Saipan was struggling financially.  Listeners were surprised in November 1985 to hear on air announcements  appealing for funding.  In August of the following year (1986), KYOI announced that a remarkable $20,000 had been received from listeners, but that was still insufficient to maintain all of the necessary activities of the station.  However at the same time, it was revealed that negotiations were underway for the purchase of the station by Christian Science in Boston Massachusetts.

The effective date for the acquisition of the station by Christian Science was December 31, 1986, though Marcom did not announce this information until March 15 of the following year (1987).  Thus Super Rock KYOI in Saipan was on the air under Marcom ownership as a commercial shortwave station for a period of just a few days more than four years.

During that four year period, station KYOI acknowledge listener reception reports with thousands of QSL cards, all posted from Saipan itself.  At least four different printings of their QSL card are known, though each featured their artistic representation of Big Bird.

Their first QSL card gave the Saipan postal address as Box 795, though this was changed soon afterwards to Box 1387.  These QSL cards were printed in Japanese and English, though the cards were printed separately in each language.

On the next occasion, when we continue the story of this important shortwave station on the island of Saipan, we will present the events that occurred under Christian Science leadership.
(AWR-Wavescan 523)