Home | Back to Wavescan Index

"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 24, 2010

Africa's First Commercial Radio Service on Shortwave - LM Radio in Mozambique

Back at the time of our annual DX contest earlier this year, we received many excellent suggestions for use as Station Profile topics here in our DX program, Wavescan. One of these suggestions was to present the story of an interesting radio station in Africa. So, in our program today, as a fulfillment of this suggestion, we present the story of Africa's first commercial radio service on shortwave, the story of LM Radio in Mozambique.

The African nation of Mozambique is located on the south east coast of the continent of Africa, right against the Indian Ocean. Mozambique is 1,500 miles long with 1/3 million square miles and it is bounded by six different countries, including South Africa.

The country has a population of 22 million people and the capital city is Maputo, though in Portuguese times it was known as Lourenco Marques. The official language is Portuguese, though many Bantu languages are spoken by the people, including Swahili.

The history of Mozambique goes way back beyond 3000 BC when it is known that early settlers moved into the area. The Bantu people migrated south into the area a thousand years ago and they established many trading centers along the coastal areas.

The first European to visit the area was the famous Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, and that was in the year 1498. Seven years later, Portuguese settlers established the first European colonies. The country was named Mozambique as a Portuguese version of the name of the Arab trader who set up a trading post on a nearby off shore island, a man by the name of Mussa Ben Mbiki.

It was on June 25, 1975, that Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal, and soon afterwards the name of the capital city was changed from Lourenco Marques to Maputo.

It was in the year 1933, on March 18 to be exact, that the first radio station in Mozambique was inaugurated. This was a low powered shortwave operation and it was installed in the capital city Lourenco Marques. However, the station was closed down during the following year, due to a shortage of finances. The small shortwave transmitter was subsequently placed into a Radio Museum in the city and it is still on display to this day.

A second attempt at radio broadcasting in Mozambique took place during the following year 1935 when a small group of businessmen established an organization called Radio Clube de Mozambique. The original transmitter building was constructed on the edge of the capital city at Matola. Early monitoring reports tells us that the station, a 200 watt unit under what looked like an amateur callsign, CR7AA, was on the air testing on several shortwave channels.

By the year 1939, there were four transmitters on the air, all shortwave; 1 at 10 kW, 1 at 600 watts, and 2 at 300 watts. In 1947, the Commercial Service, all on shortwave, was separated from the local Portuguese Service now on low powered mediumwave, though that also operated as a limited commercial service as well. The target audience for the Commercial Service on shortwave was English speaking people living in South Africa, and in fact, much of their programming was produced on tape in studios located in Johannesburg, in South Africa itself.

During the following year, a new studio and office building was constructed, a four storey building identified as the Radio Palace. During the year 1956, their first high powered shortwave transmitter was installed, a 100 kW BBC unit from France.

At the height of its operations, Radio Clube de Mozambique was on the air with 19 broadcast transmitters, so many in fact that over a period of time, they added two extensions to their main transmitter building. Each broadcast channel was given a distinctive callsign, beginning with CR7AA, and going on down through the English alphabet into the CR7B series, with a few callsigns even further down the alphabet, such as CR7DE and CR7SR. However, a tabulation of all of their known callsigns shows lots of irregularities, with official lists of frequencies and callsigns sometimes differing from actual usage, and also transmitters on the air at a considerable distance in the shortwave band from the announced frequency.

Sometimes harmonic radiations were also noted from the Matola transmitter base. For example in 1947, callsign CR7AB, a 7-1/2 kW transmitter on 3490 kHz was noted in Australia with a good signal on the first harmonic 6980 kHz.

Political circumstances began to change around this time and in 1972, LM Radio, Radio Lourence Marques, was taken over by the South African Broadcasting Corporation, and the programming was also broadcast on mediumwave in neighboring South Africa. Three years later, LM Radio was taken over by the Mozambique government and closed down. However, the programming from Johannesburg continued on air in South Africa and also in Mozambique on mediumwave under a new name, Radio 5.

In 1996, Radio Mozambique re-activated its international service on shortwave but six years later it was closed down, forever. The final listing in the World Radio TV Handbook for the few remaining government shortwave stations still on the air in Mozambique was in the year 2002. Thus it was that Africa's first commercial radio broadcasting service on shortwave was finally silenced.

However, throughout the world, a multitude of QSL cards still remain in the collections of international radio monitors. At least eight different QSL cards are known, and the earlier ornate cards are highly prized collector's items. These early cards show an elliptical map of the world, with Africa in the center.

Each QSL card clearly identified the channel that was heard and the callsign in use for that channel. Our first QSL card from Mozambique verifies the reception of CR7BV with 7-1/2 kW on 4855 kHz as heard on a small home made and uncalibrated receiver at a country location in South Australia.

Interestingly, the South African Broadcasting Corporation also issued QSL cards for the relay of the Mozambique programming over their own mediumwave transmitters in South Africa, as well as for the Radio 5 programming produced in Johannesburg and broadcast in Mozambique.

The Indianapolis Collection holds one QSL card issued by SABC in South Africa for the Radio 5 programming produced in Johannesburg and broadcast on relay in Mozambique, as heard in Colombo Sri Lanka. This unique QSL card verifies the reception of Radio 5 on relay in Lourenco Marques, Mozambique on 917 kHz with 50 kW, and the card is dated June 16, 1975.