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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 455, September 21, 2003

Radio Broadcasting by the League of Nations

The League of Nations in many ways was the forerunner of what we know today as the United Nations.  The old League of Nations was formed in January 1920 in the aftermath of World War I with the intent of avoiding international conflicts and providing peace to the world.  The headquarters for the League of Nations was in Geneva, Switzerland.

The first radio broadcast from the League of Nations was presented on an experimental basis, and it went on the air in February 1929.  The programming was produced in a studio in Geneva, and it was fed by landline to the popular international station PCJ in Holland for worldwide dissemination on shortwave.

As a result of the success of the series of broadcasts from radio station PCJ, plans were laid for the construction of a radio station specifically for the broadcast of programming from the League of Nations.  This new shortwave station was located at Prangins, near Geneva, and, when completed, it contained two shortwave transmitters at 20 kw.

One of these transmitters was obtained from the Marconi company in England. and this unit was identified as HBL.  The other transmitter was made in France, and this unit was identified as HBP.  In addition, the League of Nations was also on the air part-time from a 50 kw. mediumwave transmitter that was owned by Swiss Radio and that was previously installed nearby.  
Radio Nations was organized in 1929 and the new shortwave station was opened for communication traffic in February 1932.  Seven months later, Radio Nations was taken into usage for regular program broadcasting, with coverage in Europe and North America.  Subsequently, additional programming from Radio Nations was beamed to the Far East and Australia.

Initially the programming format was quite brief, consisting of short 15 minute segments in three or four of the major European languages just once a week, on Sundays.  However, as time went by, program broadcasting became quite spasmodic, and was actually deleted for a period of time.

Early in the year 1939, the broadcast outreach on shortwave was revived with a presentation in the same format as was noted previously.  The last broadcasts from Radio Nations that were reported in contemporary radio magazines were heard in December 1939.

Discovered at Last! The Oldest Radio Station in the World

We could ask the question: What is the oldest radio station in the world? The answer would, of course, depend on just how you view the evidence. However, an interesting historic article in the magazine Popular Communications for July 1995 sparked our interest in this direction, and so we decided to look at the evidence.

The article in Popular Communications, written apparently by Alice Brannigan, states that an experimental wireless station was constructed at the University of Arkansas in 1897. A check with the website states that it was Professor William Gladson who performed this enterprising pioneer work, just two years after Marconi began his significant work in Italy. As a result of this pioneer experimentation, the University of Arkansas constructed a wireless telegraph station that was subsequently granted the callsign 5YM.

In 1917, President Wilson closed all radio stations in the United States, along with Arkansas’s 5YM, as a security measure. However, just two years later, after the ban had been lifted, engineering students at the university re-activated the spark wireless transmitter, and on June 4 of the following year the equipment was re-licensed, with the same callsign 5YM.

University personnel soon afterwards turned their wireless endeavors into the direction of establishing a radio broadcasting station at the university. Thus it was that amateur broadcasting became professional broadcasting in January 1924 when station KFMQ was launched with 100 watts on 1140 kHz.

The callsign was changed to KUOA in 1926, with its obvious connotations with the University of Arkansas. Then seven years later the station was sold to a commercial enterprise, who in turn sold it two years later to the John Brown University in Siloam Springs.

This station is still in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and it is on the air with still the same callsign, KUOA. The current frequency is listed as 1290 kHz with a power of 5 kW.

Thus, over a period of more than a century, we have traced the electronic development of a radio station from its very earliest beginnings. These are the major steps:

It is true, the links are at times somewhat tenuous, and several major changes have taken place over the years. However, we would suggest that this station is likely to be the closest that we will ever get to discovering which station is the oldest in the world; a station whose history stretches for more than a century from its humble and inauspicious beginnings in 1897 right down to the present day.

We might also add that the AWR collection contains one QSL card from this station, KUOA, dated in 1941.

Historic DX Report - 80 Years Ago [1923]

Each week here in Wavescan we are taking a 10 year jump in the onward progress of our Historic DX Reports. This week we present a Historic DX Report as though it were reported some time during the year 1923.

RAPID DEVELOPMENT: A recent radio publication reports that the most notable feature in wireless communication is rapid progress that is underway in the transmission of news and entertainment by radio to an unlimited audience. Wireless concerts have been broadcast in half a dozen countries of Europe as well as in South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. In addition, wireless stores report the steady sale of wireless parts to experimenters, who are constructing their own receiving and transmitting sets.

ENGLAND: The British Broadcasting Company in England was organised last December, and already they are planning the installation of additional relay stations throughout the British Isles. Currently the BBC is on the air from the following local stations:

Another twelve stations are planned for installation during the next year, 1924.

AUSTRALIA: Two new broadcasting stations are scheduled to appear on the wireless dials in Australia quite soon. Both of these stations are currently under installation in Sydney; here are the details:-

Even though the first licence was issued to Famer & Company for a station with the callsign 2LO, objections have been raised to the usage of this callsign because of confusion with a station using the same identification in London. It is thought that the Australian callsign may be changed to 2FC before this station is actually launched.

USA: During the past couple of years, several hundred radio broadcasting stations have been licensed and erected throughout the United States. It is popularly believed that the station KDKA in Pittsburgh got the ball rolling with its scheduled broadcast of election results a little over two years ago in November 1920. At last count there are more than 300 radio broadcasting stations on the air in the United States, some of which are heard at great distance in England, Australia and New Zealand.

NEW ZEALAND: Already nine broadcasting stations are on the air in New Zealand. The pioneer station in New Zealand is 4XO, which was launched by Professor Robert Jack at the University of Otago in Dunedin a couple of years ago. All licensed broadcasting stations in New Zealand have been allocated callsigns beginning with a number, 1 through 4, indicating the district in which the station is located, and with two letters beginning with X, Y, or Z. For example:

Amateur experimental stations in New Zealand are allocated callsigns beginning with a number, followed sequentially by two letters begining with A. For example:

ENGLAND: A large property of 800 acres has been purchased at Hillmorton, near Rugby, for the construction of a large wireless station to form part of the Imperial Wireless Chain. It is understood that this station will ultimately contain several high powered transmitters that will be on the air mainly for international communication but also for usage on special occasions for program broadcasting.

GERMANY: Construction has begun on a large new wireless station in the Bavarian Alps. The transmitter building for this communication station is located in the valley and the antenna system is suspended from a thick cable running between the tops of two high hills.

FALKLAND ISLANDS: The new wireless station VPC at Stanley in the Falkland Islands has successfully made contact with the new communication station CCX, recently installed at Punta Arenas in Southern Chile. The new station on the mainland is of the new valve type.

EUROPE: Even though most wireless stations have changed over from the old spark transmitters to the new valve transmitters, yet there are still some spark transmitters on the air in this year 1923. Here is a list of some of these spark wireless stations: