80 Years of Radio in Indonesia

This article was originally material for a broadcast of “Wavescan” via Adventist World Radio and now forms part of the Radio Heritage Collection ©. All rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to South Pacific DX Resource hosted on radiodx.com for a period of five years from May 1st 2003. Author: Adrian Peterson

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 1, 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 (sa-BUNG), 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 (VELT-e-FRAID-en)
  • PKC Sitoebondo (SIT-a-BON-doe)
  • PKD Koepang (KOE-PUNG)

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 & 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 & Holland to Australia & 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 & 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.  

Early Radio Scene in Indonesia Time Lines – Political
Year Date Event
1941 Dec 7 Pearl Harbor
1942 Jan 11 Japanese forces landed in Indonesia
1942 Mar 7 Japan occupied Indonesia
1942 Mar 18 Japanese take over all radio stations
1942 Apr 1st Japanese broadcasts from Indonesia heard in Australia
1945 Jul 26 Batavia broadcast last POW info 26-7-45
1945 Aug 14 NIROM re-established
1945 Aug 15 Japanese surrender
1945 Aug 17 Nationalists declared independence for Indonesia
1945 Sep 11 RRI Radio Republik Indonesia set up
Early Radio Scene in Indonesia References
Unit Year Event & Reference
Early Wireless & Radio
1913 2 stations on air irregular callisigns, SAB Sabang; YBWTT 1913 192
1919 PKA Sabang, PKB Weltevreden, PKC Sitoebondo, PKD Koepang; 84.447
1921 Monster Telefunken arc under construction Java 3.5 MW; YBWTT 44
1921 10 stations with sequential callsigns in PK series; YBWTT 82.7 544
1923 1st contact between Asen Holland & Malabar Java; YBWTT 82.7 9
1923 Malabar official opening May 5 delayed lightning strike; 82.7 YBWTT 14
1925 1st broadcast station BRX began mid year Batavia; R&H 77.14 1-57 98
1931 Several LP local SW stations on air amateur calls; LI 79.23 11-7-31 54
1934 NIROM ofcially began brodcasting March 31; ODXA 11-94 70 CPRV
1935 All local SW stations listed with YD callsigns; LI 79.23 6-7-35 64 Batavia – Jakarta
1925 1st broadcast station BRX began mid year Batavia; R&H 77.14 1-57 98
1927 Radio Vereeniningen Batavia JFC 220 m (1365 kHz) 40 w; RD 6-27
1928 Radio Vereeniningen Batavia JFC 220 m (1365 kHz) 40 w; RD WW 1928
1928 Java SW JFC 22 & 40 m; RD WW 1928
1934 NIROM established; R&H 77.14 1-57 98
1938 VORO Batavia VORI Bandoeng SRV Solo MARVO Jogjakarta merged

Bandoeng – Java, less than 100 miles from Batavia-Jakarta
1918 Gunung Malabar, near Bandoeng, experimental wireless station; WDXC
1921 Monster Telefunken arc under construction Java 3.5 MW; YBWTT 44
1923 Malabar official opening May 5 delayed lightning strike; 82.7 YBWTT 14
1923 1560 m (192 kHz)
1928 Java SW ANE 4 channels & ANF 56 m & ANH 3 channels ; RD WW 1928
1928 Java SW ANDIRF Bandoeng 38.5 m; RD WW 1928
1928 PLE & PLF 15.7 & 17 m Bandoeng; RD RN 1928
1929 PLE PLF SW Bandoeng; RD RN 1929 WRHB
1930 PLE weekly music broadcasts 15.93; WW 79.1 13-6-30 19
1930 Round the world relay Jun 30 1930; RA Thesis 621
1930 PLE 15.3 PLW 38 & PMB Bandoeng 30-6-30 1st world relay; LI 5-7-30 42
1930 PLE & PMP relay from London 21-1-30; A&NZ 77.5 NZRAHB 1931 20 11
1931 PMY heard in 1931; LI 79.23 20-6-31 52
1931 PMB PLE PMC PLM PLW all 80 kW all Bandoeng; LI 79.23 15-8-31 50
1931 PMB 14.55 PLE 15.93 PMC 16.33 PLM 24.4 PLW 36.9; LI 15-8-31 50
1931 PLE Bandoeng with broadcasts Tuesdays only, QSL letter; LI 15-8-31 50
1931 PLE PLF PLG PLW Badoeng; NZRHA 11 RD 1931
1932 Round the world relay April 2, 1932; RA Thesis 621
1933 PLV 20 kW; WW 82.2 36
1934 Station photot; PC 6-89 24
1935 PMA PLE PMC PLP PMN PLV utility used for broadcast; LI 6-7-35 RD 35
1935 PLV 80 kW Bandoeng; LI 79.23 6-7-35 64
1935 PMA PLE PMC all 40 kW Bandoeng; LI 79.23 6-7-35 64
1935 PLP PMN 2 kW Bandoeng; LI 79.23 6-7-35 64
1936 PLP PMN & YDB2 heard at good level in Australia; LI 79.23 13-6-36 64
1939 YDC & PMH Bandoeng; R&H 79.11 4-39 50
1940 PMY; R&H 79.11 3-40 55
1940 YDA YDC PLP PMH; abcw 19-6-40 rd 1940
1941 YDC 15150 & PLP 11000; ABCW 30-12-39 RD 1939
1942 Bandoeng 15150 19.81 m closed March 7, 1942: “This is Radio Bandoeng closing down. God save the Queen. Goodbye everyone until better times come.”; ARW 77.8 4-42 23
1942 ABC 15950 is Bandoeng 80 kW now 50 kW copy RA; Green Bk 86 4-42
1942 JBC = ABC = PMC 18007 kHz 16.60 m
1997 Photo of Radio Batavia; MT 2-97 9 Soerabaya
1926 Radio telegraph club station 90 m; RD RN FRBS 1926
1935 YDB Soerabaja 4470; LI 6-7-35
1939 YDB Sourabaya; R&H 79.11 4-39 50 Medan
1935 Utility used for broadcast; LI 6-7-35 RD 1935 Macassar
1935 Utility used for broadcast; LI 6-7-35 RD 1935 QSLs
NIROM QSL folder
1936; ODXA 11-94 70 CPRV NIROM certificate
1937 YDB 9610; AWR QSL collection
1938 YDB Surabaya 9550 kHz 1 kW August Balbi; CPRV page
1939 YDC 15150 kHz ATC; MT 2-97 9 Communication station broadcasts
1935 PLP Bandoeng 11000 kHz 1.5 kW Balbi; CPRV page
1938 PMA Bandoeng 19345 kHz; AWR QSL collection
1939 PMH Bandoeng ATC; MT 2-97 9
PLP Bandoeng 11000 kHz Glen Atkins; CPRV page

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