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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, June 20, 2010

Non-QSL Cards - Mediumwave & Shortwave

It is probable that every international radio monitor of long standing anywhere in the world has experienced the personal embarrassment of receiving notification from some shortwave station somewhere that his reception report cannot be verified, due to some mistake in the reception report. In actual reality, sometimes the listener has made the mistake, and sometimes it is a mistake on the part of the staff at the radio station. Nevertheless, the receipt of this form of communication is indeed a disappointment to the listener. Hence, a non-QSL card, or maybe, letter.

In order to cope with this type of circumstance, several of the large international shortwave broadcasting stations have printed special cards that outline the likely problem, and these are posted to the listener, rather than the desired QSL card.

For example, Radio Netherlands in Hilversum Holland, printed a special card back some forty years ago that was a non-QSL card. On one side was a world map in two colors, and on the text side was a statement indicating appreciation for the communication from the listener, but the reception details were incorrect. The listener was invited to write in again.

At least two forms of this card are known, the only difference between the two is a variation in the colors on the map. Interestingly, Radio Netherlands also used this exact same design as a genuine QSL card.

In addition on other occasions, Radio Netherlands used another non-QSL card which was quite plain on both sides. On the text side, were small boxes which could be marked with an X indicating the information that was considered to be incorrect in the listener's reception report.

Many years ago, Radio Canada International also prepared a non-QSL card for similar usage, printed in English and French on a green card.

More common though, were QSL cards which could be used in both ways; that is, to verify the report, or to point out that the report contained inaccuracies. The earliest card of this nature in the Indianapolis Collection was issued by the mediumwave station KGU in Honolulu back in the 1930s. An X could be placed against a line of type thus verifying the report, or against another line of type stating that the report was inaccurate. Interestingly, a third line of type on this same card indicated that the programming of KGU was also heard on shortwave from the RCA communication station located at Kahuku on the northern tip of the island of Oahu.

The major Gospel station, HCJB in Quito Ecuador, also followed the same concept with many of their QSL cards. For example a series of QSL cards issued in the 1970s contained the twin options; either verifying the reception report, or stating that it was incorrect. Interestingly, these cards were signed by Roger Stubbe who was at the time the Director of Engineering for shortwave station HCJB.

Back in the 1960s, the BBC Far Eastern Relay station in Singapore issued a plain text card with four possibilities:-

The report is in accordance with their schedules.
The listener's information does not seem to be correct.
The report was probably for a rebroadcast of the BBC over another station.
The listener's report does not agree with any known BBC transmission.

With this BBC card from Singapore, X marked the spot that was most appropriate. It should be stated though, that seldom in its entire history has the BBC ever officially acknowledged listener reception reports with a valid QSL card.

Of real interest are the QSL cards issued by the New Zealand Broadcasting Service for its network of mediumwave relay stations throughout both islands. In the Indianapolis Collection there are more than eighty QSL cards in this style, black text printed on bright pink card stock. These cards do not give any specific information about the station that is verified in this way and they were in use for a period of some 20 years, running from 1936 to the mid 1950s.

A careful examination of these cards indicates at least nine different printings, all in almost the exact same style. Specific cards, identifying the actual station with its callsign and location, were printed for the main stations in the YA network, that is:

1YA Auckland
2YA Wellington
3YA Christchurch
4YA Dunedin

All of the other cards in this same bright pink style were generic and could be used to verify the reception of any of the multitude of mediumwave stations that were on the air in this government broadcasting network. This same card was also used to verify the reception of the news broadcasts from shortwave station ZLT7 in 1945 and 1946, and also for station 2AP at Apia in New Zealand Samoa.

The interesting thing about these particular QSL cards is that they could also deny valid reception. One line stated that the reception report is verified, and the line below stated that the report did not contain sufficient information for verification. The station secretary who checked the listener reception report simply Xed out the line with a typewriter that did not apply, thus leaving open the line that did apply.

So there you have it. Even non-QSL cards over a period of time contain really interesting radio history.