Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Saipan Shortwave Station under Christian Science

On this occasion here in Wavescan, we pick up once again the story of shortwave station KYOI on the island of Saipan at the time when it was transferred from the commercial company Marcom on Saipan to Christian Science in Boston Massachusetts.  Negotiations between Marcom and Christian Science began in August 1986, and at the time, Christian Science announced that they intended to install a second 100 kW shortwave transmitter and two additional antenna systems. 
The effective date for the transfer from Marcom to Christian Science, Herald Broadcasting, was the last day of the year, December 31, 1986, though Christian Science did not announce this transition until March 15 of the following year (1987).  However, a few days before the transfer took place, would you know it, a typhoon swept through the area, though damage to the station was minimal.
Then a few months later, in October (1987), another typhoon swept through the area and this time the damage was sufficient to knock the station off the air.  When the station did return to the air, one international monitor stated that the poor audio quality was “shocking”.     
Initially, programming from the new KYOI under Herald Broadcasting was a continuation of the same programming as before; that is Rock Music and information in English and Japanese as produced by the Drake Chenault Company in Los Angeles California. 
Then in December (1987), Herald Broadcasting announced that a change in format would soon be introduced, a mixture of the original KYOI style, interspersed with Christian Science programming from Boston.
The new style double format was introduced a few weeks later on January 4 (1988), and the Christian Science programming was fed direct from their studios in Boston, in parallel with the broadcasts from shortwave WCSN in Maine.  However, there were difficulties for a while with the satellite feed, and when this was worked out a month later, the entire programming over KYOI on Saipan became a tandem relay in parallel with WCSN. 
In May of the following year (1989), there was a reduction in the level of on air programming from KYOI as preliminary work began for the installation of an additional new transmitter and the erection of two additional antenna systems.  However, on July 3 of the same year (1989), station KYOI was closed down for an estimated four months so that the work could be completed satisfactorily. 
However, as things turned out that was in fact that was the last day that the Saipan station was on the air under the old callsign KYOI, Monday July 3, 1989.  Herald Broadcasting announced that when the time came for the station to return to the air with its additional transmitter and antennas, it would be under a new callsign KHBI, standing for Herald Broadcasting International. 
Yes, this Saipan shortwave station did indeed return to the air as planned and it was reopened again on November 6, 1989, under the proposed new callsign KHBI.  The additional new transmitter was the same model as the three year old original transmitter, a 100 kW Continental 418D-2E.  The station coverage area was considerably augmented with now the two transmitters and three antenna systems.
Give four more years, and two more typhoons rolled through the Northern Marianas, in the Autumn of 1994.  In a letter from Engineer Ed Evans, who was Senior Station Manager for the Herald Broadcasting Network at the time, he stated that in spite of the two blasts from the two typhoons, shortwave station KHBI withstood the onslaught particularly well. 
The station was off the air for one day only, Ed Evans stated, due to antenna damage.  He also said that KHBI provided several antenna parts to enable the other shortwave station on the island, the Christian KFBS, to make a similar quick recovery.   
However, change was on the way once again.  On September 29, 1996, a newly organized shortwave broadcasting unit of the United States government called Radio Free Asia RFA, with its headquarters offices and studios in Washington DC, began a series of broadcasts from station KHBI on Saipan.   
Initially, these broadcasts that were beamed to Asia were described as experimental.  However, a few months later, in early 1998, this experimental series of broadcasts became a regular and permanent feature, therefore seeming to indicate once again a new direction for this important shortwave station. 
Yes, there was indeed a new direction for KHBI.  On July 6 of that same year 1998, RFA took over the operation of the station; then Herald Broadcasting announced that they had reached an agreement with RFA for the sale of the station which became effective on August 31 (1998).  However, as part of the sales agreement, station KHBI would continue a part time relay of Christian Science programming. 
According to a publication of the British DX Club, Christian Science programming was still on the air over their erstwhile station RFA Saipan, one year later.  That date though, August 31, 1999, turned out to be the final day for the relay of Christian Science programming from the Saipan station which was now under the ownership of Radio Free Asia.
During the twelve years under Herald Broadcasting, station (KYOI)-KHBI was a reliable verifier of listener reception reports, though they ever only printed one QSL card.  The KHBI QSL card in full color presented a photograph of the KHBI building and an antenna tower. 
Blank QSL cards were sent out to listeners by the hundreds.  Listeners filled in the usual reception report details and returned the completed cards in an envelope to the station in Saipan.  Station personnel then checked the details, rubber stamped it as verified, and posted the self addressed QSL card back to the listener.
On the next occasion, we will present the story of this strategically located shortwave station under its current ownership, Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America. 
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 526)