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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, December 25, 2011

Christmas Radio: Radio Events Around the World on Christmas Day

In many countries throughout the world, today December 25, is celebrated as Christmas Day. According to the age old traditions, it is a day of family reunions and the giving of gifts, with a delightful family banquet and all of its special foods. It is a day when many of the Christian churches like to present special services, including special music; instrumental, vocal solos, and large choirs.

We can also remember that it was on December 25, that the world famous singer, the crooner of yesteryear if you please, presented a song that hit the high spots in the music world. It was Bing Crosby, and he sang for the first public occasion the hit song, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas." This event took place on NBC radio in the United States in a popular program series under the title "Kraft Music Hall." The year was 1941.

And so, on this occasion, we will take a look at what happened in the radio scene on December 25, throughout the years.

We go back to the year 1922 when radio broadcasting was very young, and on Christmas Day, mediumwave station KGW in Portland, Oregon presented a special Christmas program featuring a local Boys Choir. However, on December 25 of the following year, 1923, the management of station KGW gave all employees the day off so that they could enjoy their own family events. At the time, station KGW was a low power operation at just 500 watts on the frequency 610 kHz.

In 1937, this same station presented a very different Christmas program, in which they broadcast a series of more than 200 personal messages to isolated lighthouses and light ships scattered along the Oregon coastline. In 1941, on that very same day, station KGW inaugurated a new 5 kW transmitter, and a new transmission tower, standing 625 feet tall.

In 1928, the BBC London made its first Round-the-World British Empire Christmas Broadcast. It was a program of Christmas Carols at Cambridge University and it was broadcast by the famous mediumwave station 2LO in London, and on shortwave for rebroadcast throughout the world.

The first royal broadcast was in 1932 when King George V read his Christmas Message from a temporary studio in Sandringham Palace. This program was also heard on shortwave worldwide via the BBC Daventry and via the Rugby station GBP; and it was made famous by the fact that the chair upon which the king was seated collapsed during the broadcast. His son, King George VI, made his first Christmas Broadcast in 1937; and his granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II made hers in 1952.

Back to the year 1928; and we find that mediumwave station 5CL in Adelaide, Australia conducted a listener contest in December, and the winner was awarded an all expenses paid summer time Christmas vacation on the island of Tasmania.

On Christmas Day 1931, two radio stations were officially inaugurated; one mediumwave and one shortwave. The mediumwave station was located in the interior of British Columbia in Canada and it was launched with just 25 watts under the callsign 10AT. When the station changed to a commercial format soon afterwards, the callsign was changed to the more familiar CJAT.

The shortwave station that was inaugurated on the same day in 1931 was the well known HCJB on the edge of Quito in Ecuador, South America. This station later became a worldwide giant, but alas, it is no more today. We should mention though that a German organization is attempting to continue on with the Ecuador tradition, and HCJB Australia is on the air these days from its new station at the top end of Western Australia.

However, on this same date in the same year, 1931, the RCA shortwave communication station at Bolinas in California broadcast a special Christmas Program for relay across the Pacific. Four transmitters were in use for the occasion, and they were on the air under the callsigns KEL, KEV, KEZ and KWE.

Comes the year 1944, and we find that the new Radio Canada International made a special broadcast for Canadian troops on service in continental Europe. At the time, their new shortwave transmitter base at Sackville in New Brunswick was nearing completion, and one of the three RCA 50 kW transmitters was hurriedly pressed into temporary service for the occasion. Regular broadcasting from Sackville began a couple of months later, on February 25 in the following year 1945.

That same Christmas Day in 1944 saw the inauguration of two radio stations in the Pacific. These were the shortwave station KRHO on land north of Honolulu in Hawaii, and the mediumwave KRHO on board the ship "Triton Maris" in Honolulu harbor. The ship station was subsequently transferred to a landbased facility on the island of Saipan and given a new callsign, KSAI.

In 1958, Radio Lumiere in Haiti was inaugurated under the callsign 4VI. Today, the Radio Lumiere network provides nationwide coverage throughout Haiti with its nine radio stations and one TV station.

We can remember that the city of Darwin in the north of Australia was lashed by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day, 1974. Much of the city was destroyed, and the radio stations in the area were disabled. In fact when Darwin city was subsequently rebuilt, it was given a new layout, and it became necessary for every building to contain a strong disaster shelter complete with all of life's necessities.

After the horror of the cyclone disaster subsided, local radio for Darwin was broadcast through a unique relay system on shortwave. The Radio Australia shortwave facility on the other side of the bay did not escape the disaster. The station was badly damaged, and recovery took many years.

We could talk about the two islands that are called Christmas Island, one in the Pacific and the other in the Indian Ocean, both of which were discovered and named on a Christmas Day, though in different years. The so-named island in the Pacific was at one time on the air with a low powered AFRS station under the callsign WVUU; and the station in the Indian Ocean is on the air to this day under the callsign VLU2.

That's all that we have today under the title Christmas Radio, but next week here in Wavescan, we will present a similar story under the appropriate title, New Year Radio.