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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 402, September 8, 2002

Australian Radio Anniversary - The Original Shortwave Station

It was just 75 years ago that the first international shortwave station in Australia went on the air with its first radio broadcast. The date was Monday September 5, the station was VK2ME in Sydney, Australia, and the program was the first "Empire Broadcast."

Back there in those days, Australia was really "down under" and quite isolated. The only communication with the outside world was by boat, or by Morse Code sent over a long and tenuous underwater cable system, or by Morse Code sent by variable wireless via several intermediate relay stations.

Then it was that Sir Ernest Fisk, managing Director of AWA, Amalgamated Wireless Australasia, devised the concept of broadcasting radio programs from Australia to other parts of the world. For this purpose, AWA utilized its new 20 kw. communication transmitter in the main hall at their new facility at Pennant Hills in an isolated area some 14 miles from downtown Sydney.

This new state of the art transmitter was so large that it was contained in several wire cages, with access only through safe-guarded gate-ways. The antenna was a longwire that was attached to the main radio tower in use for the broadcast service of the mediumwave station 2FC.

The first "Empire Broadcast" went on the air in the early morning of Monday, September 5, 1927, so that it could be heard in England during the Sunday evening. The programming originated in the studios of the mediumwave station 2FC in Farmers Departmental Store in Sydney. This live program in this first historic shortwave broadcast from Australia consisted of speeches from prominent political leaders, and instrumental and vocal music from Australia's leading musicians.

This innovative program from Australia was heard clearly in London by local listeners using their own shortwave receivers. The BBC station in London, the famous 2LO, also picked up the program and relayed it to millions of listeners throughout England. This first "Empire Broadcast" was also heard quite clearly in Scotland and India.

Six weeks later, the second "Empire Broadcast" went on the air, this time over VK2ME shortwave for overseas listeners and on 2FC mediumwave for local listeners. The programming in the second "Empire Brodcast" was similar in content to the first broadcast.

Two weeks later again, the third "Empire Broadcast" went on the air, and this time it was heard in North America, in addition to several countries in Europe. In the United States, the programming from Australia was picked up by the General Electric station WGY in Schenectady, New York and relayed on mediumwave nationwide and on shortwave worldwide. Over in England, the well known Gerald Marcuse picked up the programming and relayed it on shortwave back to Australia over his famous amateur station G2NM.

Program number four went on the air in early November; and program number five was a special broadcast for Christmas 1927.

A little less than a year later, another 20 kw. shortwave transmitter was installed at Pennant Hills for the broadcast of special programming during an international Catholic Convention in Sydney. On this occasion, the 5 kw. mediumwave transmitter for 2FC was retuned also to a shortwave channel for a parallel relay. The new 20 kw. transmitter was subsequenlty designated with the callsign VLK.

During its 13 year broadcast history, experimental station VK2ME was on the air over at least four different shortwave transmitters: (1) The original 20 kW VK2ME. (2) The 5 kw. mediumwave transmitter was retuned to a shortwave channel. (3) Another 20 kw. transmitter under the callsign VLK. (4) Another 20 kw. shortwave transmitter again, under the callsign VLM.

In addition, for a while during the mid and late 1920s, the programming from VK2ME was also heard on an experimental FM outlet on 7 MHz, station VK2MA.

Two of the AWA transmitters were taken into service in December 1939 for the original service from Radio Australia. The transmitters VLK and VLM were redesignated as VLQ and VLQ2, though these calls were later changed to VLI, the original broadcast station with this callsign.

Several colorful QSL cards were issued by AWA for transmissions from their stations, and these include two different versions of an early map card and the more famous Kookaburra card in yellow. One of these early cards shows the original callsign, A2ME.

AWA Pennant Hills is now gone, along with all of the pioneers who kept it on the air, and its colorful history is now stored in boxes in the Mitchell Library in Sydney. Nevertheless, we honor Australia's pioneer shortwave station on the occasion of what would be the 75th anniversary of its inauguration.