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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 392, June 30, 2002

Big Radio Anniversary in Australia--the Formation of the ABC

It was just 70 years ago that a dozen mediumwave stations located in ten cities in six states throughout the Commonwealth of Australia were formulated into a national network of government radio stations.  That event occurred on July 1, 1932, and today they are celebrating their fabulous 70th anniversary with a whole host of special programs.

This is how it all began.

The first permanent radio station in Australia made its inaugural broadcast in Sydney on November 13, 1923 under the callsign 2SB.  At the time, station 2SB was owned and operated by a small commercial company, "Broadcasters Sydney Limited."  Their original callsign, 2SB, was derived from the initial letters of their ownership, Sydney Broadcasters, with the digit "2" indicating the state of New South Wales.

In anticipation of the inauguration of this new commercial radio station, test broadcasts were conducted from the station location on the rooftop of a newspaper company, "Smithís Weekly & Daily Guardian" in Philip Street, Sydney.  The first test broadcasts were made from an amateur radio transmitter running just 10 watts under the callsign 2HP.  A few days later, when the commercial transmitter was ready for action, low powered test broadcasts were conducted from this unit.

This first new radio station in Australia commenced a regular broadcast service with a flourish, and the inaugural live broadcast included local Sydney musical talent, both vocal and instrumental.  One month later an official inaugural ceremony was broadcast, and this included a speech by the Postmaster General of Australia, under whose jurisdiction were all matters associated with wireless broadcasting.

Some three months after the initial commencement of programming over station 2SB, the callsign was changed to 2BL, and this new callsign was also taken from their ownership name, Broadcasters Lilmited.  This new callsign was taken in order to avoid confusion on the part of listeners because of the similarity in sound between 2SB and another mediumwave station now on the air, 2FC.

Radio station 2FC was inaugurated as Australiaís second wireless station about three weeks after the inauguration of the first station 2SB.  Likewise, temporary accomodation was secured for this station on the top of another large building in downtown Sydney, the departmental store of Farmer & Company. 

Soon afterwards, a large transmitter facility with tall antennas was installed at Willoughby, overlooking the beautiful Sydney Harbour.  This location was in use for only three years before an even more suitable location was secured at the AWA transmitting facility at Pennant Hills, an outer suburb of Sydney.

As time went by, the interests of both stations, 2BL and 2FC, became intertwined, until they were amalgamated into one large broadcasting company with studios and offices in Market Street, Sydney.  At first the ownership was under the New South Wales Broadcasting Company, and then the Australian Broadcasting Company. 

Finally the Commonwealth Government took over and these two "A" class radio stations became the headquarters operation for the Australian Broadcasting Commission.  Station 2BL is still 2BL, though in 1971 the callsign of station 2FC was changed to 2RN, standing for "Radio National."

Both of these pioneer radio broadcasting stations in Australia were involved also in shortwave broadcasting.  The very first shortwave broadcasts in eastern Australia were made from station 2BL in February 1926 using the amateur transmitter 2YG, owned by Roy Allsop, the station engineer. 

These shortwave relays originating from station 2BL were on the air spasmodicially for a period of three years, and they were then transferred to the sister station 2FC.  At this stage, the regular mediumwave transmitter at Pennant Hills was re-tuned at night to a shortwave channel for this special shortwave programming. 

As time went by, further changes took place and these shortwave brodcasts were taken over by AWA under the callsign VK2ME.  At the commencement of the European Conflict in 1939, this shortwave service from Pennant Hills was taken over by the ABC as "Australia Calling," the forerunner for Radio Australia, and the experimental callsign VK2ME was regularized into VLQ.

Both 2BL and 2FC issued QSL cards in the early days, and today these items are quite historic.  One of these early QSL cards shows also the shortwave channel for 2FC as 28.5 metres, corresponding to 10675 kHz.

These two original commercial stations in Sydney became the headquarter stations for the Australian Broadcasting Commission on July 1, 1932, which is the big anniversary that the ABC in Australia is currently celebrating.  At the time of the formation of the ABC, 12 mediumwave stations were incorporated into the new government radio network.  These stations were located in all six state capitals, though Darwin in the Northern Territory had no radio station of its own at the time. 

In addition to the capital city stations, a further four relay stations in country areas were also absorbed into the ABC network, and these were:  2NC, Newcastle, New South Wales; 2CO, Corowa, in the border area betwen NSW and Victoria; 4RK, Rockhampton, Queensland; and 5CK, Crystal Brook, in South Australia.

In addition to the 12 mediumwave stations, the PMG department also operated an experimental shortwave station at Lyndhurst under the callsign VK3LR.  This transmitter took its programming as a relay from the two "A" class mediumwave stations in Melbourne, 3LO and 3AR. 

The callsign 3LR was a combination of  the callsigns of the two mediumwave stations.  The experimental callsign VK3LR was regularized just prior to the commencement of the war as the more familiar VLR, though this station was closed a decade or two back.

A few days ago I phoned the ABC in Australia for additional information regarding their 70th anniversary celebrations, and the  receptionist girl at the switchboard gave the identification simply as "702."  This, of course, is the frequency for their mediumwave station 2BL.  Today the ABC operates a nationwide network numbering more than 500 AM, FM and shortwave stations throughout Australia.

One of the major 70th anniversary events is a historic broadcast with program input from the twelve original mediumwave stations in the ten cities in the six states. 

Another significant event that will occur on July 1 is the launching of the ABCís seventh radio network.  This new network will be an Internet-only radio service featuring contemporary Australian music for the age bracket ranging from 30-50 years.

We here at Adventist World Radio, and our DX program "Wavescan, honor the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on its auspicious 70th anniversary.