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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 428, March 9, 2003

Radio Broadcasting in Fiji - The Early Years

Back more than a quarter of a century ago, I made my first itinerary across the Pacific, travelling from California to Australia.  We as a family visited four different island groups in the one day, and ended the day with a speaking appointment at the Adventist College near Suva in Fiji.   

Next morning on the way to the airport I made a brief stop at the studio building of Radio Fiji.  I asked the official about the old transmitters that were in use before the Pacific War, mediumwave ZJV and shortwave VPD2, indicating that these were two very valuable historic units. 

He said: ìYes, they are valuable, but they are too large and cumbersome.  We have no room for them here at Radio Fiji and there is no room for them in the national museum.  If you want one, you can have it,î he said, pointing to the large transmitter in the foyer.  No, there was no way that I could accept his offer and transport the huge old AWA transmitter on the plane.

The islands of Fiji are located in the South Pacific, north of New Zealand and out from Australia.  There are more than 800 islands in the Fiji group, made up of mainly volcanic outcrops and coral ridges. 

The two main islands are Viti Levu, meaning ìBig Fiji,î and Vanua Levu, meaning "Big Land." The total land area is a little more than 7,000 square miles and the capital city is Suva, which is located on the largest island.

The total population of Fiji is less than one million people, made up mainly of Fijians of Melanesian descent, and descendants of Indians brought over from India during the colonial era.  The official language is English, though Fijian and Hindustani are widely spoken in the ethnic groups.

In its early history, the Fijians were cannibals.  However, in the year 1871, Chief Cakobau united most of the islanders, and, with the aid of the king of Tonga, brought peace to the islands.  Three years later, Chief Cakobau invited the English to make the islands a British crown colony, and 100 years later, in 1970, Fiji was granted independence.

The story of wireless and radio in Fiji goes right back to the early days.  Immediately prior to World War I, three spark wireless transmitters were installed at three different locations in Fiji.   One early report indicates that these were German units, and therefore made probably by Telefunken.

These three transmitters were given abbreviated callsigns, as was the custom at the time, though soon after the war these were changed according to the recently introduced international prefixes.  Here now is the list of the three early wireless stations, together with the old and new callsigns:-
 
        Suva, SVA became VPD
        Lambasa, LBA became VPE
        Tavenui, TVA became VPF

In the early 1920s, new valve transmitters were installed at each of these wireless stations, and a new station, VQL, was installed at Savu Savu.  These four wireless/radio stations were in use for inter-island and ship to shore communication, though at times there was an attempt at expermental broadcasting.

The main station in this network of radio stations in Fiji was VPD, located on the edge of the capital city, Suva.  Interestingly though, the callsign VPD was also in use at the same time for a shortwave broadcasting station located at Doveritz, near Berlin in Germany.

A new radio facility was installed near Suva by AWA in 1930, and the transmitter power was probably around 200 watts.  Although this was primarily a communication facility, occasional program broadcasts were made from this transmitter.  On one occasion, station VPD broadcast a special relay to VK2ME in Sydney with the Fijian segment of the famous "South Seas Broadcast" of 1933.

Another special broadcast from VPD was a relay from Sydney of the Royal Wedding in London in November 1934.  Regular program broadcasting on shortwave was carried out from that time onwards.  The familiar mediumwave station with the nostalgic callsign ZJV went on the air in March 1936.

During this era, three different QSL cards were issued for stations VPD and ZJV, from both Sydney and Suva.  The original QSL card from VPD was a color map of the Pacific, and the second card showed a coastal fishing scene.  The QSL card from ZJV showed a Fijian village scene.