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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, January 30, 2011

Adventist World Radio Celebrates 40th Anniversary: Early Adventist Radio Broadcasts

Later this year, Adventist World Radio will celebrate its 40th anniversary. It was on the afternoon of Friday October 1, in the year 1971, that the first broadcast from the new Adventist World Radio went on the air from the new high powered shortwave station located at Sines in Portugal.

In our program today, we take a historical look at very early radio events that ultimately led to the inauguration of Adventist World Radio. It is true, we did look at some of these early events back in 1986 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the founding of AWR, but since then, a lot more interesting information has been discovered. So, we begin back almost 90 years ago.

It was on March 25 in the year 1922, when radio was very young, that the first inaugural transmission from an Adventist radio station took place. The location was Andrews University in Berrien Springs Michigan, or Emmanuel Missionary College as it was known at the time; the temporary callsign was the amateur designation 8AZ; and the operator was the young John Fetzer from Lafayette, a little further south, in Indiana. The official inauguration of the station as a program broadcasting facility occurred under the callsign KFGZ a year later.

That is a brief outline of the first radio broadcasts from the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. So let us move on now to other very early Adventist radio broadcasts, and we go up into Canada.

It so happened that there was a medical practitioner by the name of Dr. O. S. Parrett and he was the medical director of a small Adventist hospital on Vancouver Island just off the Pacific coast of British Columbia. Dr. Parrett had a friend who built his own radio broadcasting station that was on the air under the callsign CHCE with just 5 watts on 750 kHz in 1922. The doctor was invited to present a series of health topics over this small new radio station and this took place in the middle of the following year. By this time, the station was operating with a power increase up to 20 watts.

During the next couple of years, Dr. Parrett made several additional radio broadcasts over several other radio stations in Canada, including:

On a coming occasion, we will present a major feature here in Wavescan about the unique network of phantom radio stations throughout Canada.

In the meantime, we move down to the United States, and in chronological order we go to Allentown in Pennsylvania, and here we find Pastor H. A. Vandeman making his first radio broadcast over station WCBA with 50 watts on 1180 kHz. Vandeman made many broadcasts over station WCBA for a period of some 10 years, and a couple of others also assisted in these ventures. He was on the air also in nearby Harrisburg over station WCOD.

It can be remembered that Pastor Vandeman's son, George, was the originator of the long running TV program, "It is Written," which was launched in 1955.

Next we go to Springfield, Massachusetts in 1924, to station WBZ, which was the Westinghouse station with 1500 watts on 900 kHz at the time. Here we find another speaker on radio, Pastor W. A. Spicer, after whom the university affiliated college in Poona, India is named, Spicer Memorial College. In Springfield, Spicer presented a series of programs, Friday evening and Saturday morning, in January 1924, made up of music and the spoken word.

Three years later, another pastor, W. W. Prescott, presented a similar series of weekly broadcasts over station KFOR with 100 watts on 1380 kHz in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Next we come to the era of Dr. H. M. S. Richards, the illustrious founder of the long running Voice of Prophecy radio program. Richards' first attempt on the air was a short announcement regarding a series of public meetings he was conducting in Bakersfield, California. The station was a very new and very small facility under the callsign KERN, on 1410 kHz, and the advertising announcement was on the air in February 1927.

Actually, Dr. Richards spoke over the air from many different stations in California during the late 1920s and 1930s, such as KMJ, Fresno in 1928, KNX, Hollywood in 1929, KGER, Long Beach in 1930, KFI, Los Angeles in 1934, and so on, right up to the war years and beyond. In 1937, the program title "Voice of Prophecy" was introduced and it was broadcast over the Don Lee-Mutual network in California. At the beginning of 1942, the "Voice of Prophecy" was heard on the nationwide Mutual network of 89 stations, and later the same year, on 225 stations throughout the United States.

And that's the story of early Adventist radio broadcasting, as an introductory program honoring the 40th anniversary of Adventist World Radio.

Australian States on Shortwave: Australian Capital Territory

In our program today, we begin a monthly series of topics on the subject of Australian states on shortwave; and interestingly, every state within the Commonwealth has been on the air shortwave, at least at some time or another.

As the first area of interest, we look at shortwave broadcasting in A. C. T., the Australian Capital Territory. It is true, ACT is not a separate state, but rather the federal territory in which the national capital city, Canberra is located. This slice of Australian territory is a little like Washington, DC in the United States. Both are the national capital for the nation, but in Australia, the national territory also encompasses the neighboring countryside areas as well.

The Australian Capital Territory is located approximately half way between Sydney (Australia's first settlement) and Melbourne (the temporary capital while Canberra was being developed). The original inhabitants of the area were the wandering Ngunnawal Aborigines. Exploration of the area by English settlers began in 1820, and the first homesteaders took up property four years later.

The widely separated colonies on the Australian continent, together with the island of Tasmania, were federated into a single nation on January 1, 1901, and provision was made at that time for the future development of a national capital. Exactly ten years later, to the very day, the territory was officially taken over by the federal government, and the city name, Canberra was chosen. We understand that the name Canberra is taken from an Aboriginal word meaning, meeting place.

The Australian Capital Territory is 55 miles long and 20 miles wide, and the city was designed by the American landscape architect, Walter Burley Griffin from Chicago. Griffin is also credited with the development of the now very popular home located carport; and the ornamental lake in the centre of Canberra is named in his honor. Today, this very modern capital city of Australia has 1/3rd million inhabitants.

An early wireless communication station was established for the Australian navy in Melbourne, Victoria. However, in 1925, during the era when Canberra city was still under its early development, the navy recommended that a large communication station should be established in the capital territory near Canberra.

Construction work for this new station at Belconnen, near Canberra, began without publicity in 1938. As the station was nearing completion during the following year, and on subsequent occasions also, rumors suggested incorrectly that this station might also be used as the transmitter base for the planned shortwave service of Radio Australia. The Belconnen station was officially opened on April 22 in the critical year 1939, and the first operational transmission as a navy communication station was made six months later.

The original transmitter was a high powered longwave unit, radiating from a very tall antenna system suspended from three towers 600 feet high and a quarter mile apart. As time went by, a cluster of shortwave transmitters was installed, and a bevy of curtain and rhombic antennas was erected.

At the height of its operation, the transmitter station at Belconnen contained 38 shortwave transmitters ranging in power from 10 kW to 40 kW, with 50 antenna systems, though most dominant in the skyline were the three tall longwave towers. Three receiver stations associated with the transmitter station were located progressively at three different sites nearby to Canberra; Red Hill, Fyshwick and Bonshaw.

This huge communication station was progressively decommissioned, withdrawn from service, finally closed in mid 2005, and then demolished, thus making way for a new housing development in suburban Canberra. The functions of the station were progressively transferred to a new navy communication station located further inland, near Albury, on the Murray River in New South Wales.

During its more than 66 years of service as a major communication radio station, Belconnen was on the air under at least seven different callsigns, and these were:

VHP Navy communication
VIS Communication with commercial shipping
VIX Weather and shipping information
AXM Time signals after the closing of the chronohertz station VNG at Lyndhurst in Victoria
2AAFR Navy broadcasting service
AAFR Navy broadcasting service
ADFR Navy broadcasting service

The first known usage of the Belconnen radio station for the broadcast of radio programming occurred in the year 1956, and this was on the occasion of the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Victoria. All available shortwave transmitter space in Australia was pressed into service to ensure that adequate radio coverage could be provided for all foreign radio media covering the sporting events in Melbourne. It is reported that the navy communication station at Belconnen in the Australian Capital Territory also was in use for the relay of radio news and commentaries to other overseas countries during the Olympic Games.

Soon after the VNG chronohertz transmitters at Lyndhurst in Victoria were closed during the year 1987, the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne provided a radio time service via the Belconnen transmitter station. This familiar ticking sound was on the air for a period of twelve years and it was heard on three shortwave channels; 5100 kHz at 5 kW, and 6488 kHz and 12982 kHz, both at 10 kW.

In 1991, a small temporary studio was installed in Canberra by the navy for the production of radio programming for broadcast to Australian service personnel on duty in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and at sea. Initially, this programming was on the air as the Gulf Link Service and it was relayed by Radio Australia, Darwin to the Arabian Gulf area in May 1991. Five months later, the Belconnen transmitters began to carry this service, and the Darwin relay was subsequently discontinued, in May 1993.

In the meantime, a new and more substantial production studio was installed in Canberra, and programming was produced for broadcast under the callsign, 2AAFR, Australian Armed Forces Radio, which was in reality a New South Wales callsign, not an Australian Capital Territory callsign.

Way back, the first radio broadcasting station launched in Canberra was a commercial station and it was inaugurated in 1931 under the callsign 2CA. Even though the initial digit 2 was allocated to the state of New South Wales, yet all of the early radio stations in Canberra were also allocated callsigns with the initial digit 2. However, in more recent time, amateur callsigns in the federal territory have been allocated a VK1 callsign, and several of the subsequent AM and FM broadcasting stations were also allocated callsigns beginning with the initial number 1.

As far as the radio broadcasting service from Belconnen was concerned, the callsign 2AAFR soon gave way to the initials, AAFR, and also ADFR, Australian Defence Forces Radio. This radio broadcasting service was on the air from Belconnen for a period of eight years and it was beamed to Rwanda, Malaysia, Cambodia and Timor.

For a short period of time during the year 1999, the Belconnen station was heard on air with a relay of the ABC programming service known as 2 Triple J, that is 2JJJ.

It should also be noted that programming from the Canberra studio was relayed by the navy transmitting station located at North West Cape in Western Australia. On some occasions, the programming was separate, and sometimes it was in parallel with the Belconnen broadcasts.

The broadcast of radio programming from Belconnen ended in 1999, but shortly afterwards their Canberra studio produced another series of programs beamed to Timor, and this was relayed by Radio Australia in Shepparton, Victoria.

The large and powerful navy communication station at Belconnen in Australia's Capital Territory is now gone, and it has been replaced by suburban housing. However, many international radio monitors in many countries throughout the world hold historic memories of this station in their collection of QSL cards and letters.

Cards have been issued over the years for the several callsigns in use at Belconnen, including VHP, VIX, VIS, AXM, and the navy broadcasting service itself. In addition, Radio Australia also honored the broadcast of the navy programming over their Darwin and Shepparton transmitters with their large and colorful QSL cards.