By Bill Sparks
This article was originally published some years ago in FRENDX, now The Journal of the North American Shortwave Association. It appears here with permission of NASWA.
When John suggested that I might be able to do an article based on my memories of the SWBC station on Fiji, I am sure that he was thinking about the Fiji Broadcasting Commission station that broadcast on the 90 meter band until early in the 1970’s. Actually there was short wave broadcasting from the Fiji islands during the early days of radio before World War II.
My earliest loggings of Fiji go back to 1936 when the Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Ltd., more popularly known as AWA, had three transmitters broadcasting on short wave from Suva. This was the company that operated the famous early day shortwave stations from Australia, VK2ME, VX3ME and VK6ME.
The station in Suva was known as VPD, and it broadcast on various frequencies in what we would now consider the international broadcast bands such as 31 meters. Because the broadcasts were on the high frequency bands, reception on the West Coast of North America was quite good. The AWA stations were excellent verifiers with very artistic QSL cards. I still treasure cards from VPD and VPD2 which include scenic photos of the islands on the front.
I don’t know when the AWA stations ceased broadcasting on short wave since army service starting in 1941 ended my DXing for over twenty years. When I returned to DXing in January 1962, the Fiji Broadcasting Commission had taken over from AWA. Actually 1962 was an excellent date to start DXing Fiji again. Early in the year the F.B.C. installed two new 10 KW transmitters and started broadcasting their evening programs from 0400 to 1030 GMT on the 60 meter band. Two separate program services were carried on shortwave. An English language service featured news and commentaries in English along with popular and light concert music. The other service was the Fiji native language service combined with a Hindi service for the benefit of the sizeable Hindu population in the islands.
My earliest logging on the 60 meter band was VIM5 on April 5, 1962, on 4755. This was the English language service. Shortly thereafter I had some loggings of the Fiji Hindi service on 4785. These 60 meter frequencies provided fairly reliable reception as early as 0630 GMT. For reasons unknown to me, however, the F.B.C. decided to move down to 90 meters for their evening schedules. By December, 1962, my Fiji loggings were on 90 meter frequencies, where the F.B.C. continued to broadcast until the sad day sometime after 1971 when the decision was made to abandon shortwave entirely. In December I have a logging of the English service, VRH, on 3230 with the BBC news relay at 0700. The English service remained on this frequency until the F.B.C. left shortwave. In August, 1963, I logged the Hindi service, VRH9, on 3346.
In March 1964, there is a logging of a test transmission of 3284, which thereafter became the frequency for VRH9 and the Fiji-Hindi service. I find several loggings each year thereafter, usually at around 0700 to 0830. However reception on 90 meters was always a sometimes thing due to CW QRM on 3230 and the same ute that still makes life miserable in the vicinity of 3285 causing constant QRM on the 3284 frequency.
0700 was always a good time to look for Fiji because both services normally had a full ID in English at that time. Then there was a relay of BBC news, followed by local sports and other local news in English on 3230. The more interesting musical programs were on the Hindi-Fiji service, since local Fiji and Pacific Island music as well as Hindi music was featured.
Th F.B.C. was also a good verifier and had an interesting QSL card featuring a colorful drawing of a grass shack with an inverted L antenna leading into it from two coconut trees. The Pacific Islands have always been one of my favorite DXing objectives because of the time that I spent out there during the war. I think that some of our other members, including Al Sizer, have a similar reason for their enjoyment of Pacific Island DX. It was, indeed, a sad day when I learned that the F.B.C. had moved all of its broadcasting to medium wave and FM.
Before I leave the subject, however , I should mention that there still may be a remote possibility of a logging on Fiji on shortwave if there should ever be an event of enough importance taking place in Fiji in the future. Back in 1963, the South Pacific Games (a sort of Olympic Games for the Pacific Islands) were held in Fiji. The F.B.C. broadcast these games to the entire Pacific area on the 31 meter band over VRH10 on 9715. Reception in San Francisco was, of course, excellent since a 10 KW transmitter was used. The broadcast lasted for several days. This is the only time that I ever heard the F.B.C. broadcast on the international bands. it is a remote possibility that something like this might happen again in the future, but it is worth keeping in mind.
From the website maintained by Don Moore, Association of North American Radio Clubs DXer of the Year for 1995.