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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 23, 2013

100 Years of Wireless & Radio in Bulgaria - Part 6: Through the Years

In our program today, we pick up the story of radio broadcasting in Bulgaria at the end of the Russian era, that is, at the end of the year 1989. At this time, a total of one longwave and fifteen mediumwave stations, many with double transmitters for the sake of redundancy, were on the air throughout Bulgaria, ranging in power from 15 kW on longwave up to 250 and 500 kW on mediumwave. On the shortwave scene, three major transmitter bases were on the air, Stolnik, Kostinbrod and Plovdiv, with a total of seven shortwave transmitters:

During the last quarter century, the radio scene in Bulgaria saw a remarkable increase in the number of mediumwave stations throughout the country, from sixteen in 1989 right up to an all time maximum of thirty four around the turn of the century. These local radio stations ran at a power rating of anywhere from 1 kW and 3 kW right up to 100 kW. On the international radio scene, super power mediumwave transmitters were also on the air for nationwide and international radio coverage.

There were three mediumwave transmitters running at 500 kW for nationwide coverage and these were:

It is true that the spillover coverage for such high power on mediumwave would ensure coverage far beyond the borders of Bulgaria itself. However, there were two additional high powered transmitters on mediumwave which carried specific foreign service programming at varying times of the day. These two units, both at 300 kW were:

On shortwave, there was very little change at the three major installations, Stolnik, Kostinbrod & Plovdiv, during this same quarter century time period; and in fact, the Transmitter Documentation Project from Ludo Maes in Belgium shows no new shortwave transmitters coming on the air, and no shortwave transmitters leaving the air during this same time period.

In 1996, Radio Sofia presented special programming to honor its 60th anniversary. Similarly, Radio Sofia celebrated 70 years on January 25, 2004, and 75 years in 2010. For this most recent celebration, a special postage stamp was issued honoring Radio Sofia.

On May 26, 2008, Radio Sofia inaugurated a new digital radio service in the DRM mode from a transmitter at Kostinbrod.

Over the years, the ownership of Radio Sofia changed rather remarkably. The 2003 issue of the World Radio TV Handbook shows Bulgaria Telecom as the owner of all radio transmission facilities; and then six years later, the 2009 issue of the same publication shows TDF France as holding the ownership of Bulgarian Telecom.

However, in spite of all of these various developments, three years after Bulgaria exerted its independence, that is in mid year 1992, it was announced that the shortwave service may close, due to a shortage in funding. Then a final date was announced for the closure of all mediumwave and shortwave stations, and this was set for the conclusion of the broadcast day at the end of January. This closure would become effective at 2200 UTC on January 31, 2012.

Reporting from India, Jose Jacob, VU2JOS, at the National Institute of Amateur Radio in Hyderabad, stated that he heard the close of their final broadcast on shortwave. The program on 7400 kHz ended with European music, and then closed with the tuning signal of Radio Sofia, right at 2159 UTC on January 31 last year.

However, even though the shortwave era was over, yet mediumwave still lived on. On February 14, two main frequencies, 747 kHz & 1224 kHz were closed; and a further announcement stated that additional mediumwave channels would close at the end of that same year.

In April earlier this year, the single longwave transmitter was still on the air, as well as seven remaining mediumwave stations. The transition in many countries throughout the world is towards FM, and this is happening also in Bulgaria, yet some traditional usages on longwave and mediumwave still remain.

On the next occasion when we look at the Bulgarian radio scene, we will take up the story of the many relay services carried by Radio Sofia shortwave, some of which were quite remarkable.