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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 394, July 14, 2002

AWR on the Air in Southern Asia

It was more than half a century ago that the first broadcast from the Seventh-day Adventist Church went on the air over a shortwave transmitter located at Ekala in Sri Lanka. The program was the American "Voice of Prophecy" with the legendary Dr. H. M. S. Richards, and it was recorded on a large 18 inch flat disc.

The very first broadcast of the "Voice of Prophecy" was transmitted from Radio Ceylon at 8:30 am on Sunday, October 1, 1950. During that era, the Commercial Service from Radio Ceylon was on the air with just two shortwave transmitters, one at 100 kw. and another at 7.5 kw., both located at Ekala, a few miles north of Colombo.

Actually, in those days the "Voice of Prophecy" was on the air shortwave four times each Sunday in the commercial services of Radio Ceylon beamed to Sri Lanka, the Far East, Southern Asia and Africa. The VOP, as this program is known affectionately in radio circles, was the first Christian religious program on the air in the new commercial service from Colombo.

Soon afterwards, two more radio programs in English were added into the regular broadcast schedule, and these were "Your Radio Doctor" in 1953, and "Your Story Hour" in 1954. It was at this stage also that the first programming in Indian languages went into production in the now familiar radio studios in Poona, 100 miles inland from Mumbai.

In 1975 I was invited to transfer from Colombo in Sri Lanka to Poona in India for the purpose of co-ordinating the radio ministry for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the 12 countries of the old British India. A little less than a year later, on October 7, 1976, approval was granted at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Washington, DC for the Poona facility to operate as a unit of Adventist World Radio.

Additional programs in English and Indian languages were produced on tape in the Poona studios of Adventist World Radio and forwarded to Sri Lanka by post for broadcast back into India. At the height of its international outreach, AWR in Asia was on the air with more than a dozen broadcasts in ten languages totalling more than 15 transmitter hours each week.

During that era, AWR in Asia issued its own QSL cards to verify listener reports from more than 100 countries worldwide. Two different series of QSL cards were printed, one series to verify reports on the DX program, "Radio Monitors International," and the other series to verify reports on all of the other programming.

At the same time as AWR was expanding its coverage in Southern Asia, AWR was also expanding in other parts of the world. There was an increase of programming and the usage of additional relay facilities in Europe, the establishment of a shortwave station in Costa Rica, and the commencement of construction for a large station on the island of Guam.

In anticipation of the inauguration of shortwave station KSDA on the island of Guam, the designation of the AWR unit in Southern Asia was changed from "AWR-Asia" to "AWR-Southern Asia," and the new station on Guam took over the title "AWR-Asia."

As time went by, additional shortwave transmitters were installed at KSDA on Guam, and the broadcast of AWR programming was phased out from SLBC in Colombo and transferred to KSDA on Guam. The final AWR broadcasts from SLBC Ekala were on the air at the end of December in the year 1988. That was the end of an era.

Thus it was that Adventist programming was on the air shortwave from Sri Lanka for a total period of almost 40 years, 13 of which serving as an official unit of Adventist World Radio. Those who hold QSLs from the old AWR-Asia and AWR-Southern Asia do indeed hold historic heirlooms, a real radio treasure in any old QSL collection.