Tuesday, April 12, 2011

American States on Shortwave: Texas

Whatever happened to the American shortwave station KAIJ in Dallas Texas?

That is the question asked by Peter Grenfell in New Zealand as part of his entry in our annual DX contest last year. In response, Peter, this is what we find as a result of a spate of interesting radio research. The state of Texas is the largest of the 48 mainland states. At the time of European exploration, it is estimated that 30,000 Indians lived in the area, many of whom lived in permanent settlements. The first Europeans to visit the area were Spanish explorers who mapped the coastline in 1519.

The French established a small and temporary colony inland at Fort St Louis; the Spanish sent many Catholic missionaries into the area; and when Mexico asserted its independence from Spain in 1821, Texas became a part of the Mexican Empire. In 1836, after several skirmishes with Mexican forces, Texas declared its independence as the Republic of Texas.

Nine years later, Texas joined the United States. However, during the Civil War, Texas seceded and joined the Southern Union; but in 1870, Texas again rejoined the United States.

The twin cities of Dallas/Fort Worth are located in the central northern area of this large state of Texas. The twin city Metroplex has a population close on 7 million, making it the 2nd largest in the United States. One of the world-shaking events that occurred in Dallas was the tragic death of President Kennedy back in the year 1964.

It so happens that there were two attempts over the years at establishing a shortwave station in Texas; one was unsuccessful and the other was successful. The first attempt was made back half a century ago, and the other just a quarter of a century ago. Here are the details.

Back around the beginning of the year 1960, a request was lodged with the FCC in Washington DC for approval to establish a shortwave station in Dallas Texas for coverage into Latin America. In May, the details of this new shortwave station were published in a radio magazine in Australia, Radio & Hobbies.

This news item stated that this new American shortwave station would operate at 50 kW on 15180 kHz and that it would broadcast into Latin America during the daytime, in English & Spanish. As further details became available, it was stated that the owner of this new station was Albert L. Cain, who was also an amateur radio operator with the callsign W5SXT. The intended callsign for this new shortwave station was KFRN, and a news report published in August 1960 stated that the station was under construction.

The 1961 edition of World Radio TV Handbook lists this new station, under the company ownership of Global Broadcasting, not in Dallas Texas, but instead in Tulsa Oklahoma, though now no callsign is shown. That is the last reference to the new shortwave station KFRN, planned but never completed.

In more recent time, there was the well known shortwave station KCBI-KAIJ which was located a few miles out from Denton, just north of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The application for this new station was lodged with the FCC on March 18, 1983. The requested callsign was KCBI, which was also the callsign of their FM station that was inaugurated seven years earlier. The callsign KCBI honored the Criswell Bible Institute, which was established in Dallas by the First Baptist Church.

The transmitter and antennas for shortwave station KCBI were installed in an isolated area of corn country 16 miles east of Denton, a little north of the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex. The transmitter was a re-engineered mediumwave unit manufactured by General Electric and there were two antennas, both described as corner reflectors.

The first test broadcasts from station KCBI were noted on 11790 kHz around Christmas 1984, and the station was inaugurated in the middle of the following year, on July 28, with studios in the Baptist Church in Dallas. Initially the station was on the air with a regular daily schedule, but during the following year, this scheduling was reduced to just the weekends, due to a shortage in funding. Shortly afterwards, the station was closed and placed up for sale.

Four years later, the station was re-activated, and then sold for $1,000 to the University Network for the programming of Dr. Gene Scott. An additional shortwave transmitter, a Continental unit rated at 100 kW, was installed in 1994 and the callsign was changed to KAIJ, though it is not known to this day just what was the significance of these new identification letters.

During the height of its operation, station KAIJ was on the air with a full 24 hour daily schedule on both transmitters, 100 kW & 50 kW. However, as time went by, this scheduling was reduced until just one transmitter was in use part time.

The station was sold again, this time to Peoria Broadcasting Services, though it was on the air again with little more than occasional test broadcasts.

Two years ago, this shortwave station was procured by an organization called Leap of Faith, and the equipment was removed from Denton in Texas and re-installed at an isolated country area near Lebanon in Tennessee. The 100 kW transmitter was refurbished for use at its new location, and two rhombic antennas were installed.

Test broadcasts from this shortwave station now located in Tennessee began in January last year under the callsign WTWW which stands for We Transmit World Wide. Program broadcasting began officially at 1500 UTC on February 19 on 9480 kHz, though at reduced power. Full power broadcasting began on March 1.

So, that’s the story of the two shortwave endeavors in Texas, both in Dallas. Station KFRN back in 1960 was never erected, neither in Dallas nor in Tulsa. Station KCBI was inaugurated in Dallas in 1985, it was re-designated as KAIJ nearly ten years later, and now it is on the air as station WTWW in Lebanon Tennessee.

There are a few QSL cards from the original KCBI in the collections of international radio monitors, and three different styles are known; a 1973 calendar, a two sided On the Air Card, and an On the Air card with a plain back. After the University Network procured the station, two cards were in use, both under the title, Two If By Sea Broadcasting. One card shows the callsign KCBI, and the other card shows the callsign KAIJ. QSLs are currently being issued by email and by post for the transferred station WTWW at its current location in Lebanon Tennessee.

As an interesting side note, when this shortwave station was on the air under the callsign KCBI, it broadcast a delayed relay of the early DX program from Adventist World Radio in Poona, India. The program title at the time was “Radio Monitors International”, the AWR studios were located in suburban Poona, and the broadcast from station KCBI was on the air under the auspices of Radio Earth. The broadcast of “Radio Monitors International” via KCBI was on the air for a few weeks beginning on October 13, 1985.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS # 111 via Adrian Peterson)