compiled this Project mainly as an endeavour to bring together a large amount of historical print and on-line material essentially
for my own interest, concerning the development and evolution of shortwave radio in Australia.
My interpretation of the term "shortwave"
is "high frequency", for radio transmisssions in the range 2 to 26 MHz, intended for general audiences.
As the Project evolved, I decided to make it “public
access”, rather than leave it buried in my own system, so that anyone, anywhere, could access it and learn from it.
My initial research quickly led me to the conclusion
that the project would benefit by the incorporation of additional content concerning the invention and development of land-based
telegraphy, and the subsequent discovery of wireless telegraphy and wireless telephony.
It is my view that an appreciation of the early development
of non-shortwave wireless broadcasting technologies is important in gaining an understanding of the manner in which shortwave
I have also included material concerning Australian Shortwave Military Broadcasting, which occurred during the years of
WW2. The Army and Air Force had set up many transmitting and receiving bases in locations in and close to Melbourne, some
being integrated facilities with the US and British military. The Melbourne region had been selected by the Government as
it was believed that this location constituted the least threat to airborne attacks as compared with areas further north.
Radio Broadcasting History in
The advent of the Internet made it possible for just about anyone to produce many textual articles about
“Radio Broadcasting History”, with a lot of it written by people with little or no knowledge of radio transmission
technologies, with much of this material being cut-and-pasted from other texts.
It suffers from a huge lack of imaging, even though
there is an enormous range of out-of-copyright graphic material now available through the on-line collections at Libraries,
and other public organizations.
There has been negligible attention given by many non-technical
researchers to the holistic relationships and interactions which existed, and still exist, across those technologies.
It is my hope that the present project will address
and clarify some of those deficiencies, and provide a structured and orderly treatment a very complex subject, whose history
began in the late 19 th century.
The Project attempts to set down the principal events and discoveries over a time-span of more than 100 years,
and the Chapter structure is chronological, acknowledging that some overlapping of topics will inevitably occur.
General history of shortwave
Prior to about 1920, most radio experimentation took place on long wavelengths, in what would become the longwave
band. Activity then moved to shorter wavelengths, in what would become the mediumwave bad.
In the mid-1920s, it was realized that much shorter
wavelengths could be used for long-distance propagation, which resulted, in 1926, of the introduction of Shortwave High Speed
Beam Wireless Telegraphy stations around the world, using relatively low power,
and directional antennas.
In the late 1920s, transmission and receiver technology
had advance to support shortwave telephony broadcasting, and the early 1930s was marked by a massive expansion of shortwave
stations worldwide, mainly constructed by Governments.
These stations delivered content consisting of information,
intended mainly for diverse expatriot audiences in other continents, and for presentation of news, music, and entertainment
for the general worldwide community.
The 1930s was also represented by the appearance of
the “Cold War”, with the rise of Fascism, Communism, and other non-democratic institutions of varied political
This fuelled the use of international broadcasting
for the delivery of propaganda supporting a multitude of ideologies, and for a plethora of religious organizations, which
endure to the present.
The 1960s was also the era when international shortwave
broadcasting began to be disseminated by stations which became known as “Clandestine”, transmitting from secret,
unknown or undisclosed locations.
Australia on shortwave
our own backyard, regular international shortwave broadcasting appeared in the mid-1920s from Melbourne and Sydney, where
programming was delivered by low-powered transmitters carrying relays of parent domestic stations.
In 1927, the “Voice of Australia” emerged on shortwave, from transmitters operated
by the AWA company in Melbourne and Sydney, with the callsigns VK3ME and VK2ME. Programming was from the AWA itself, which
commanded a substantial worldwide audience.
In 1939, those stations were closed down by the Government,
and the ABC then established its “Australia
Calling” international shortwave service, using a Post Office transmitter at Lyndhurst, SE of Melbourne,
with the callsign VLR. In 1944, the new Shepparton facility became operational, and the name “Radio Australia” was introduced.
Radio Australia was originally set up as a propaganda
broadcaster, to support Australia’s and the British Empire’s involvement in WW2. English
language broadcasts were targeted to South Asia, the Pacific, North America, Africa and the Europe/British Isles. Non-English
languages were also broadcast.
In the 1940s, the Government introduced a range of
shortwave transmitters for serving the Australian outback and the Pacific Islands – these were sites in Perth, Melbourne,
Sydney, and Brisbane.
By that time, it had become known throughout the world
that the use of wavelengths on 60 or 90 metres were ideal for delivery of content over shorter distances, and this resulted
in a flurry of activity to set up stations in regions straddling the equator, and generally stretching between the Tropics
of Capricorn and Cancer. This spawned the term Tropical Band Broadcasting, to
augment mediumwave coverage in the Tropical countries to inland regions.
The term survives until the present!
In the 1960s, the Australian Government made a major policy decision
that it would progressively abandon its services for areas outside of the Asia/Pacific region.
This was a consequence of a decision that RA would provide a ring of shortwave services into neighbouring countries,
a policy which survives to the present.
For many years, I provided part-time engineering support
and consultancy to Radio Australia, when it was part of the Post Office, as well as preparing scripts and tapes for the various
Communications programs, including DXers Calling.
In those years, I
was privy to many proposals and plans, which at the time were classified confidential, and were neither divulged nor released
to the outside world.
That included Policy Papers concerning RA’s refusal
to permit any foreign broadcasting service to use the Shepparton facilities, in the “national interest”
A related policy concerned the Govt's decision not
to allow the construction of any international broadcasting facility on Australian soil, except in very special circumstances.
The decision to allow HCJB to set up its station at
Kununurra, Western Australia, in 1975, came as a complete surprise to many of us in the industry, which was a complete about-face
of an established policy.
It was well known that it took several years for approval
to be handed by the Govt to set up the new station.
The establishment of RA’s new facility at the Cox Peninsula,
near Darwin in 1969 also came as a surprise, as the policies of the time did not support the building of such a facility so
close to our northern neighbours. There was already a large military communications
facility at North West Cape, at Exmouth, Western Australia, and concerns had been raised at the reasons for setting up a RA
station so close to a facility which had been believed to be a prime target for airborne terrorist attacks
surprisingly, the Government’s decision to abandon the Cox Peninsula station in 1996 came unexpectedly, which had been
triggered by growing political unrest and turmoil across Southern Asia.
(By Bob Padula)
See the Coverage Map below!