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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 436, May 11, 2003

Eighty Years of Radio in Indonesia

Eighty years of radio in Indonesia.  That's a long time.  In actual reality, though, the beginnings of wireless communication in Indonesia go way back even further than that, to about 90 years.  This is the story.

In the era just before the beginning of World War I, two spark wireless stations were established in the Dutch East Indies for navy communication.  This was in the days before internationally recognized callsigns were in general usage, and one of these stations, located at Sabang, was on the air in Morse Code under the irregular callsign SAB.

Immediately after the end of the war there were four such stations in the Dutch East Indies, and these were all designated with callsigns in the new PK series as:

        PKA     Sabang
        PKB     Weltevreden
        PKC     Sitoebondo
        PKD     Koepang
Soon afterwards, the Dutch government in Batavia, now known as Jakarta, announced that a monster-sized wireless station, using Telefunken arc equipment, was under installation at Malabar, near Bandoeng.  The date for the official opening of this station was set at May 5, 1923, exactly 80 years ago last Monday.  However, a tropical lightning strike destroyed some of the wireless equipment and the auspicious day was postponed until repairs were completed.

This massive 3.5 megawatt wireless station was established for communication with the home office in Holland.  However, at this stage, spark wireless transmitters were becoming obsolete, and valve, or tube, transmitters were soon afterwards installed at this same location on the island of Java.

The first radio broadcasting station in the territories of Indonesia was installed in Batavia in mid-1925 under the callsign BRX.   Other broadcasting stations began to sprout throughout the Dutch East Indies and many of these were amalgamated into the newly-formed government NIROM network in 1934.

Shortwave broadcasting in the Dutch East Indies began in 1928 as a dual effort on the part of smaller local radio stations and the large communication stations.  In Batavia, the first on shortwave was station JFC.  The main communication station at Bandoeng began to relay broadcast programming on shortwave for the benefit of listeners throughout Indonesia, and as well as in Australia, other countries in Asia, and also back in Holland itself. 

Over the years, a large number of stations appeared on the shortwave dial, mostly in the tropical shortwave bands.  These stations were on the air with callsigns in the P series and also the more recent YD series.

Radio Batavia, under the Bandoeng callsign PLE, conducted weekly music broadcasts on 15.93 metres, and transmitter callsigns PLE PLW and PMB took part in the famous round-the-world relay in June 1930, and again two years later.  These transmitters were frequently on the air also as intermediate stations for the relay of broadcasts from London and Holland to Australia and New Zealand.

It was at this stage that a large transmitter was installed at Bandoeng for communication traffic and broadcast programming.  It was listed at 80 kw. at the time, though it is likely that we would rate it at 50 kw. these days.

In the decisive year 1942, on March 7 to be specific, at the end of its broadcast day, Radio Batavia Bandoeng was heard in Australia with this announcement:  "This is Radio Bandoeng closing down.  God save the Queen.  Goodbye everyone until better times come."  The frequency in use at the time was 15150 kHz.

A month later, this same transmitter returned to the air with programming beamed towards Australia and New Zealand under new callsigns, such as JBC and ABC.  The callsign JBC indicated Japanese Broadcasting Company, and ABC was a callsign for clandestine programming that mimicked Radio Australia.

In this pre-war era, the big shortwave stations in the Dutch East Indies, and several of the smaller stations also, were recognised as good verifiers.  The QSL cards from the communication stations were usually in the form of typed postcards in English, though the most famous card at this era was the NIROM certificate which listed complete details, including callsign.

For those who can look back that far, Indonesia may be remembering this week its 80 years of international wireless and radio communication.