Early Radio in Fiji

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 January 1st 2003. Author: Adrian Peterson

Back more than a quarter of a century ago, I made my first itinerary across the Pacific, travelling from California to Australia. We as a family visited four different island groups in the one day, and ended the day with a speaking appointment at the Adventist College near Suva in Fiji.

Next morning on the way to the airport, I made a brief stop at the studio building of Radio Fiji. I asked the official about the old transmitters that were in use before the Pacific War, mediumwave ZJV and shortwave VPD2, indicating that these were two very valuable historic units.

He said: “Yes, they are valuable, but they are too large and cumbersome. We have no room for them here at Radio Fiji and there is no room for them in the national museum. If you want one, you can have it”, he said, pointing to the large transmitter in the foyer. No, there was no way that I could accept his offer and transport the huge old AWA transmitter on the plane.

The islands of Fiji are located in the South Pacific, north of New Zealand and out from Australia. There are more than 800 islands in the Fiji group, made up of mainly volcanic outcrops and coral ridges.

The two main islands are Viti Levu (VEE-TEE LEE-VOO), meaning “Big Fiji” and Vanua Levu (VAH-NOO-a LEE-VOO) meaning “Big Land”. The total land area is a little more than 7,000 square miles and the capital city is Suva which is located on the largest island.

The total population of Fiji is less than one million people, made up mainly of Fijians of Melanesian descent, and descendants of Indians brought over from India during the colonial era. The official language is English, though Fijian and Hindustani are widely spoken in the ethnic groups.

In its early history, the Fijians were cannibals. However, in the year 1871, Chief Cakobau (CACK-a-BOE) united most of the islanders, and with the aid of the king of Tonga, brought peace to the islands. Three years later, Chief Cakobau invited the English to make the islands a British crown colony, and 100 years later, in 1970, Fiji was granted independence.

The story of wireless and radio in Fiji goes right back to the early days. Immediately prior to World War 1, three spark wireless transmitters were installed at three different locations in Fiji. One early report indicates that these were German units, and therefore made probably by Telefunken.

These three transmitters were given abbreviated callsigns as was the custom at the time, though soon after the war these were changed according to the recently introduced international prefixes. Here now is the list of the three early wireless stations, together with the old and new callsigns:-

Suva SVA became VPD
Lambasa LBA VPE
Tavenui TVA VPF

In the early 1920s, new valve transmitters were installed at each of these wireless stations, and a new station, VQL, was installed at Savu Savu.

These four wireless/radio stations were in use for inter-island and ship to shore communication, though at times there was an attempt at expermental broadcasting.

The main station in this network of radio stations in Fiji was VPD, located on the edge of the capital city, Suva. Interestingly though, the callsign VPD was also in use at the same time for a shortwave broadcasting station located at Doveritz, near Berlin in Germany.

A new radio facility was installed near Suva by AWA in 1930 and the transmitter power was probably around 200 watts. Although this was primarily a communication facility, occasional program broadcasts were made from this transmitter. On one occasion, station VPD broadcast a special relay to VK2ME in Sydney with the Fijian segment of the famous “South Seas Broadcast” of 1933.

Another special broadcast from VPD was a relay from Sydney of the Royal Wedding in London, in November 1934. Regular program broadcasting on shortwave was carried out from that time onwards. The familiar mediumwave station with the nostagic callsign ZJV went on the air in March 1936.

During this era, three different QSL cards were issued for stations VPD & ZJV, from both Sydney & Suva. The original QSL card from VPD was a color map of the Pacific and the second card showed a coastal fishing scene. The QSL card from ZJV showed a Fijian village scene.

Radio Broadcasting in Fiji – The Early Years

References

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Site Call Information & Reference
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Germany
VPD VPD broadcast 7890 Doveritz Berlin; YB 84.200 RN 8-31 125 74

Sydney Factory Tests
VK2MD Test broadcasts Ashfield just above 31 m; LI 79.23 18-4-36 60
VK2MD Heard last week, reading technical manual; LI 79.23 18-4-36 60
VK2MD 34 m, new VPD2?, instead became VK6ME; LI 79.23 20-2-37 52

Perth Broadcasting
VK6ME Applecross, low power tests heard in USA; ISWC 12-36 10
VK6ME Inaugurated Mon March 22 7:00 pm Perth time; RRA 77.5 3-37 69

Suva Communication
SVA YBWT&T 82.7 1913 193; 484 1921, YBWT&T 82.7107 546
SVA Working schedules; WW 82.2 4-8-22
SVA AWARG 79.1 146
VPD 37.5 m; WW 77.1 27-4-28 22 5
VPD Began regular communication traffic 1930; LI 79.23 26-1-35 57
VPD VPD Suva 20.7 & 31.3 m; YB 82.400 RN 6-30 112- 71
VPD Suva 21.00 m; 77.5 10 NZRHA 1931 111
VPD Viti Levu 20.79 14420 phone; YB 84.200 RN 9-35 162 114
VPD New communication transmitters Suva & Lautoka; RN 83.4 9-35 4
VPD 14420 kHz; YB 84.200 OSWLM 1-36 124
VPD 38 m 7890 kHz phone; YB 84.200 RN 7-36 33 133
VPD1 Suva 1935 Nov 1st AWA SW transmitter, Suva Fiji
VPD2 New transmitter will begin on 19-8-36 9540; LI 79.23 22-8-36 53
VPD2 500 watt AWA transmitter 1936; TDP 1998 Fiji 21 58
VPD2 1936 Aug 19 2nd AWA SW transmitter 500 w
VPD3 1938 3rd AWA SW unit 10 kW inaugurated

Suva Broadcasting
VPD Shortwave broadcasting station 1932; 77.4 23 19 7
VPD “South Seas Broadcast” relay to VK2ME; LI 79.23 3-6-33 54
VPD Regular programs 13075 since royal wedding 11-34; LI 19-1-35
VPD2 Began regular broadcasting 11-35 (No, 1934); AWA Paper 79.4 27
VPD Dec 1934 1st week began broadcasting; LI 79.23 26-1-35 57
VP1A Suva 28.66 m 10460 kHz broadcast; YB 84.200 RN 9-35 162 114
VRO Viti Levu 43.77 6850 experimental; YB 84.200 RN 9-35 162 114
VPD2 New transmitter will begin on 19-8-36 9540; LI 79.23 22-8-36 53
VPD2 New transmitter 9540; ARW 77.8 1-9-38 56
VPD2 9535 kHx daily exc Sun 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm; ABCW 77.19 1939 6
VPD2 Special relay from VPD2 to NBC 7-36; AWA Document 79.4 27
VPD2 10 kW transmitter 1939; TDP 1998 Fiji 21 58

Suva Mediumwave
ZJV March 1936 on air Serial No 1 341 m (880 kHz); Copied note
ZJV Agreement AWA-Fiji British Gov wireless rights for beam service
ZJV 920 kHz 400 w; YB 84.200 RN 10-36 216 135
ZJV 920 kHz 400 w; YB 84.200 BYB 1940 182

Labasa Communication
LBA YBWT&T 82.7 1913 193
VPE YBWT&T 82.7 484 1921, 107 546; AWARG 79.1 146
VPE Vanua Levu 43.77 6850 experimental; YB 84.200 RN 9-35 162 114
VPE 6850 experimental; YB 84.200 OSWLM 1-36 122

Tavenui Communication
TAV YBWT&T 82.7 1913 193
VPF YBWT&T 82.7 484 1921, 107 546; AWARG 79.1 146
VPF Vanua Levu 43.77 6850 experimental; YB 84.200 RN 9-35 162 114
VPF 6850 experimental; YB 84.200 OSWLM 1-36 122

Savu Savu Communication
VQL YBWT&T 82.7 484 1921, 107 546; AWARG 79.1 146
VQL 6850 experimental; YB 84.200 OSWLM 1-36 122

Fiji QSLs – PreWar
ZJV 920 kHz .5 village scene QSL card AWR Collection dated 22-6-36
ZJV 920 kHz .5 village scene QSL card AWR Collection dated 11-8-37
ZJV 920 kHz .5 village scene QSL card AWR Collection dated 4-8-38
ZJV 920 kHz .5 kW reproduction village scene; ATC TWIME 84.61 164
VPD Map card 3 units VPD site; VPD QSL card early 1930s, PRH copy
VPD Coastal scene 10-7-37, 3 transmitters; QSL card AWR collection
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Radio Broadcasting in Fiji

Time Lines
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Station Location Year Event
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LBA Labasa 1913 Wireless transmitter established
TVA Tavenui 1913 Wireless transmitter established
VQL Savu Savu 1921 Wireless transmitter established
SVA Suva 1913 Wireless transmitter established

VPD Doveritz 1931 Callsign, SW broadcast station Berlin

VPD1 Suva 1930 Began regular communication traffic
VPD1 Suva 1933 Special “South Seas Broadcast”
VPD1 Suva 1934 Regular broadcasting began Nov .
VPD2 Suva 1936 New transmitter 500 w
VPD3 Suva 1939 New 10 kW transmitter

VK2MD Sydney 1936 April shortwave transmitter tests

VK6ME Perth 1936 Nov transmitter tests heard in USA

ZJV Suva 1936 Inaugurated March

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