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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan, October 25, 2009

Mediumwave Broadcasting in Bermuda

Last week here in Wavescan we presented the story of the early wireless stations and the subsequent communication radio stations located on the islands of Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean. On this occasion, we continue in the Bermuda story, this time with a panoramic view of their mediumwave stations, all five of them.

The first mediumwave broadcasting station on the island of Bermuda was installed in a shop on Front Street in their capital city, Hamilton. This station was inaugurated in February 1930 and it was owned and operated by Thomas J. Wadson under the callsign TJW, the owners initials. Even though this broadcasting station was located in a commercial enterprise, yet we would suggest that it was actually an amateur radio station, perhaps even unlicensed, that was in use for the broadcast of radio programming.

Local information tells us that this same shop is still in use today by the Wadson family, though the radio station is long since gone.

Nine years later, with trouble foreboding on continental Europe, the second radio broadcasting station was established in the British colony of Bermuda. This station, the first official government broadcasting service, was launched in September of the decisive year 1939 from a studio installed in the Walker Arcade in Hamilton. The callsign for this facility is listed as ZAF3, though little else is known today about this station. It would seem then that station ZAF3 must have been a quite small operation with low power and a limited coverage area.

It was in April 1941 that work commenced in Bermuda on the construction of several bases for use by all branches of the American armed services. Two years later, in September 1943, the government radio station ZAF3 began the broadcast of AFRS programming for the benefit of American service personnel who were now swarming in the area. However, about a year later, the government broadcasting station was closed in anticipation of the opening of an American broadcasting station.

In view of the fact that a subsequent radio station in Bermuda appeared on the radio dial under the callsign ZFB, one could wonder as to whether the listing of the callsign as ZAF was perhaps a misprint, and instead it should read ZFA.

This new American radio station on Bermuda was launched in 1944 on July 24 with locally made equipment under the callsign WXLQ. This callsign, WXLQ, was a regular overseas callsign in the sequences issued by AFRS, the American Forces Radio Service.

This new AFRS facility was installed on the summit of Coral Nob Hill at Camp Bell on the Kindley Air Force Base, which had been established on Long Bird Island at the extreme eastern end of Bermuda two or three years earlier. Station WXLQ operated with a power of just 50 watts on the frequency 1240 kHz and it took much of its programming as an off-air relay from the CBS shortwave station at Wayne, New Jersey. This program relay was usually received from the 50 kW transmitter WOOW on 11870 kHz.

The AFRS station in Bermuda, WXLQ, was finally closed in June 1946 at the end of two years of broadcast service.

However, the local population of Bermuda was not left long without a local radio station. During the same year that saw the closure of the American station, another station was under construction, and this was launched soon afterwards under the callsign ZBM. Interestingly, this new station operated on 1235 kHz, almost the same channel as the previous American station, though the power output was higher, at 250 watts.

Another government owned commercial station was subsequently inaugurated in Bermuda and this new facility was licensed under the callsign ZFB, with 1 kW on 960 kHz.

These days there are ten radio broadcasting stations in Bermuda, AM and FM, serving a population of just 60,000 people, though we do remember that 100,000 tourists visit the islands each year. This is the current list of their five mediumwave stations, all at one kilowatt, and note that three callsigns begin with the letter V and two with the letter Z:

VSB1 1450 Country music
VSB2 1280 Bible Broadcasting Network
VSB3 1160 Tourist information, news and relay BBC World Service from London
ZFB 1230 Local programming
ZBM2 1340 News and talk radio

In addition, there are five FM stations, including one that is maintained by the government as an emergency broadcasting service.

Well, that is the story of all of the mediumwave radio stations located on the island of Bermuda, beginning nearly 80 years ago in 1930 right down to our present day. In two weeks time, we are planning to present the story of ship broadcasting associated with the islands of Bermuda.