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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 465, November 30, 2003

Radio Broadcasting in India before Radio Broadcasting Began!

According to the official records, radio broadcasting in India began on July 23, 1927, when the Indian Broadcasting Company, IBC, inaugurated its first radio station, 7BY, in Bombay.  As time went by, 7BY became the more familiar VUB, and the Indian Broadcasting Company was taken over by AIR, All India Radio. 

However, in the eight year period stretching from early 1920 until regular broadcasting was established in 1927, a dozen or more radio stations were established in several of the major cities in India.  All of these stations were experimental in nature, and some were very temporary, lasting no more than a few days.

The very first radio broadcast in India was made by Giandchand Motwane from Bombay in 1920.  This low powered station was on the air for just one day under the callsign 2KC.

In the following year there was another experimental radio station on the air in Bombay, and this was a co-operative venture between the ìTimes of Indiaî newspaper and the Post & Telegraph office in Bombay.  The P&T transmitter carried these experimental broadcasts in August 1921, and they were noted more than 100 miles away in Poona.

A third, and this time a more substantial, station was established in Bombay two years later again and it was on the air with 1.5 kw. on 750 kHz. under the callsign 2FV.  This station left the air when the government approved station 7BY-VUB was inaugurated in 1927.

The fourth experimental station in Bombay was operated by the Walter Rogers Company as 2AX.  This station was inaugurated in 1925, and on September 6 of that year Pastor Robert Hare made a historic broadcast from this station.  It was the very first radio broadcast from the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the territories of what was then British India.  Station 2AX also left the air when 7BY-VUB was inaugurated two years later.

Over in West Bengal, the Marconi Company from England conducted several test broadcasts from different locations in Calcutta.  The first concert program was heard at a distance of three miles, and subsequently a discourse from the local gulf club was heard at a distance of 72 miles.  This same transmitter was made available on loan to the Calcutta Radio Club, who launched their own radio station in November 1923 under the callsign 2BZ. 

The Marconi company made another transmitter available to the government in West Bengal who operated their station as 5AF.  Both stations in Calcutta, 2BZ and 5AF, were closed when the national government established its own station, 7CA-VUC, in 1927.

Madras, now known as Chennai, was another city in India that received a radio station in this pre-broadcasting era.  This early experimental station was operated by the Madras Presidency Radio Club under the callsign 2GR.  

This station was closed in 1927 due to financial problems and the equipment was donated to the Corporation of Madras who re-opened the station under the international callsign VUM.  This station was closed in 1938 when All India Radio established its own station for coverage of Madras and the callsign VUM was transferred from the old club station to the new AIR station. 

We could also mention that there is a listing in an old radio directory for a station operated by the Crompton Electric Company in Madras, and another station in Bangalore, both in the same year 1926, though it is not known whether these stations were ever established.

Perhaps we could also mention the tiny one watt station that a postal official established at his home in Hyderabad back in the year 1933.  And it would appear that there were a few other early radio stations during this pre-broadcasting era, the details of which have been lost over the years.  Maybe there were just four or five in this category, and who knows, maybe the information about some of these other stations may yet come to light.

The Mystery of the Missing QSL

It is so easy when writing on the history of radio broadcasting to assemble all of the available information and then draw what seems to be a rather obvious conclusion. When it seems that everything about that particular topic has been neatly assembled and presented, a piece of new information is discovered, and this places the whole topic in a new light.

Take for example, the case of the 10 kW shortwave transmitter VLH, which was installed in the now-defunct radio station at Lyndhurst in Victoria, Australia. This new STC transmitter was inaugurated on January 21, 1946 for the purpose of relaying the ABC mediumwave service from 3AR to isolated listeners in the Northern Territory and Queensland.

You could talk with many knowledgeable international radio monitors about the ABC transmitter VLH and you could ask the question: "Was VLH ever diverted from ABC Home Service usage to carry the international programming from Radio Australia?" The answer you would receive would usually state: "No, Radio Australia never used the transmitter VLH."

However, this is now proven to be incorrect. On two separate occasions during the summer sports season in Australia, the ABC Home Service transmitter VLH was indeed diverted to Radio Australia usage. In January 1951, this transmitter was on the air as VLH5 on 15230 kHz with Radio Australia programming in French to Tahiti.

Again, three years later, VLH was once more taken into Radio Australia usage. For a time period of just six days, VLH was on the air, again with a relay in French to Tahiti on 9580 kHz. On December 18, the frequency was 15320 kHz and the callsign was VLH15 with the French Service to Indo-China.

On each of these quite-special occasions, the duration of the programming was less than one hour each day.

The question we would now ask is this: "Does anyone out there own a QSL card from Radio Australia that is endorsed with the callsign VLH?" It is quite probable that the answer is "no"; and if that is the case, then this becomes the "Case of the Missing QSL".