AUSTRALIAN RADIO ANNIVERSARY - VLQ IN BRISBANE
(By Dr Adrian Peterson,
AWR, IN, USA <COPYRIGHT RAGUSA MEDIA GROUP>, and reproduced
with permission This story may not be further reproduced or quoted
without the specific consent of the author)
The regional home service shortwave station VLQ at Bald Hills near Brisbane in Queensland would have celebrated its 61st anniversary in February 2004, that is, if the station were still on the air today. However, station VLQ and its sister unit VLM have been off the air now for more than 10 years. This is the story.
The callsigns VLQ & VLM were originally allocated to two ships in the registry of neighbouring New Zealand, and in more recent time, the callsign VLM was in use as a line callsign for one of the transmitters at the temporary Carnarvon site in Western Australia. We might also add that the callsign VLM was also in use for a 10 kW communication transmitter located at Pennant Hills in the pre-war days, and the callsign VLQ was also in use at the same site for international broadcasting beginning in the year 1939.
During the year 1941, work commenced at Bald Hills, twelve miles north of Brisbane, on a new radio base for the two ABC mediumwave stations 4QG and 4QR. One of the major reasons for moving the antennas from the city into the country during the Pacific War was so that the horizon as seen from the ocean would be considerably lower.
The location at Bald Hills is flat and swampy and it was previously in use as a commercial jam factory. In May 1942, station 4QG was transferred from the top of a city building to the new country location.
The first test broadcasts from the new 10 kW STC transmitter were heard on February 14, 1943, and strangely, the test announcement gave the location as Sydney. Three days later, shortwave VLQ at Bald Hills was officially inaugurated and it carried the ABC programming for outback areas.
In 1945, the ABC began a 15 minute daily news bulletin from VLQ for listeners in Papua New Guinea. Some 30 years later, Radio Australia also took the same station, VLQ, into daily usage for a regular five hour service to Papua New Guinea. The channel for this external broadcast was 11885 kHz though no callsign was allocated for this transmission. The Radio Australia usage of VLQ for the service to Papua New Guinea was terminated in 1976 when the new though temporary station was inaugurated at Carnarvon in Western Australia
A temporary additional unit was installed at Bald Hills for use on a lower frequency for coverage in the skip zone of the higher frequency unit VLQ. This temporary unit was rated at 200 watts and it was opened without ceremony as VLM on September 7, 1949. Two years later, a new 10 kW transmitter was installed and it took over the VLM service.
Back during the pre-satellite era, the shortwave service from the two transmitters VLQ & VLM served a double purpose. It was in use as a direct broadcast service for people living in isolated outback areas, and it was also considered essential as an emergency backup for outages in the tenuous landline feeds to distant mediumwave stations. The VLQ relay service was heard at times from several of the distant ABC stations in Queensland, and also from station 5DR at Darwin in the Northern Territory.
Over the years, a total of four different shortwave transmitters were on the air at Bald Hills, three at 10 kW and one at 200 Watts. The three larger units were on the air as VLQ and VLM, and also for the Radio Australia service to Papua New Guinea. The antenna system was made up of two concentric rhombics, two half wave dipoles, and an experimental folded dipole.
The last broadcast from this shortwave station was heard on December 16, 1993 and the newest transmitter was sold a few months later to the ChronoHertz station VNG in Llandilo in New South Wales. However, station VNG has also subsequently gone silent.
Several different QSL cards have been issued for VLQ and VLM during the station's 60 year existence, including the original PMG card, and four different styles of cards showing maps of Australia and Queensland. For Radio Australia programming, the colourful picture cards showing animals, birds and flowers were issued.