Recent Radio Developments in Europe and Africa

Recent radio news in four different countries, two in Europe and two in Africa, indicate a positive direction for mediumwave and shortwave broadcasting, rather than a negative.  We begin our radio story today in Europe, and in the east European country of Romania.

Map of Romania and its main population centres. Image: ResearchGate

An outline map of the European country of Romania, 430 miles long and 320 miles wide, presents the shape of a very irregular circle.  Or perhaps, as Google Maps presents Romania, it is formed in the shape of a (Dory) Fish swimming westward.

Romania in Eastern Europe is a land of rugged mountains and verdant plains, multiple river systems and natural forests, modern cities and country villages.  The total population is twenty million and the capital city is Bucharest, with its interwoven architectural display of historic edifices, communist era buildings, and modern commercial structures.  Romania attracts anywhere up to twenty million tourists a year.

Throughout the centuries, Romania has undergone more than its share of internal and international turmoil.  The earliest migrations brought the arrival of ancient Europeans, the Greeks established their colonies, and the Roman armies brought their Latin dialects to the area, from which the modern Romanian language is descendant.  On the religious scene, Romania has undergone the influence of early Christianity, Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Islam, and on the political scene, communism and independence.

Wireless came to Romania quite early, and a 1913 list shows a maritime longwave station at oceanside Constantza on 600 metres (500 kHz) under the self-chosen callsign KST.  Station KST was the coastal shore station for a fleet of half a dozen ships in the nearby Black Sea, all of which were operating on the same frequency (500 kHz) though each was operating under its own irregular callsign.

Eleven years later (1924), there were two dozen longwave stations throughout Romania, half of which were installed in various areas of the capital city, Bucharest.  By this time, regularized callsigns were in use, with the first two letters CV indicating Romania, followed by two more letters that indicated each specific station.  As an example, station CVOB was a civil aviation transmitter located at suburban Baneasa (ba-NAH-sa).

A perusal of the new 2023 WR(TV)HB indicates that there is currently a multitude of FM stations throughout Romania, too many to count.  A current list of mediumwave stations in Romania presents a surprising total of many mediumwave stations still on the air in Romania, almost 50 of which were provided by the Harris manufactory in Quincy Illinois in the United States.

Current information also indicates that Radiocom in Romania plans to install five more mediumwave replacement transmitters which is a clear indication that mediumwave radio is still viable throughout that nation.  The five new facilities will be installed at:

  • Bucharest: 25 kW on 603 kHz
  • Constanta: 100 kW on 1458 kHz, 50 kW on 1314 kHz, 25 kW on 909 kHz
  • Oradea: 50 kW on also 603 kHz

Our second country of radio interest in Europe is Spain, and in particular their powerful shortwave station located at Noblejas, some 35 miles south of the national capital Madrid.  The official opening of the Noblejas shortwave station, together with its six French made Thomcast transmitters at 350 kW each and a bevy of curtain antennas, took place on July 21, 1971.  Then 30 years later, around the turn of the century (2000), the same company upgraded the Noblejas shortwave station with the replacement installation of two shortwave transmitters at 250 kW each.

QSL card from 1977 showing the Nobeljas shortwave station.
© Chris Mackerell Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation.

Then fourteen years later again, the station was closed (October 15, 2014) due to financial restraints.  However government, military and listener response was so huge that Radio Exterior de Espania REE responded by reopening the station, with a short series of test transmissions followed by a reduced daily and weekend schedule.

According to the splendid new WR(TV)HB for 2023, REE Noblejas is now on the air with a full daily program schedule in seven European languages.  Six shortwave transmitters are currently in use, four of the original 50 year old transmitters and the two 25 year old transmitters, though all are now operating at a reduced power output of just 100 kW.

US listener Wayne Heinen received this QSL from FZI in 1963. Image: National Radio Club Verifications On Display

Next we cross over to Africa, in particular to the Congo river areas in Africa, and specifically to the historic shortwave station located near Brazzaville in the country that is now known by many as the Congo.  In October 1940, a 5 kW shortwave transmitter was taken from France and installed at a site near the city of Brazzaville in the French Congo.

Then three years later, an American made 50 kW RCA shortwave transmitter was installed at Brazzaville and taken into service in May 1943 under the callsign FZI.   The studios for this new international radio broadcasting station were installed within the city of Brazzaville and the transmitter was installed two miles distant at M’Pila.  Back then, station FZI carried a relay of VOA programming for coverage in many areas of Africa; and over the years, half a dozen other shortwave transmitters have been installed at that same location.

Towards the end of last year, the Chinese installed a new 50 kW shortwave transmitter at the Djoue transmitter station west of Brazzaville.  After a short series of test transmissions, the station was taken into regular service for coverage of the Congo and beyond on August 30 (2022).  Many international monitoring reports indicate that one of their main shortwave channels is 6115 kHz.

Radio Algérienne logo. https://radioalgerie.dz/, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The second radio location in Africa in our program today is Algeria.  Not only are new shortwave transmitters on the air in Algeria, but two new shortwave transmitter locations in Algeria were recently activated.

The Ampegon company in both Switzerland and Germany in Europe has installed a new antenna system and a new 300 kW shortwave transmitter at both locations in Algeria, Bechar and Ouargla.  Those two new shortwave bases in Algeria are more than four hundred miles apart.

Test transmissions from the two new shortwave stations began in late August last year (2022).  Subsequent monitoring reports indicate a good signal at many different nearby and distant locations.

And there we have it!  Recent radio developments in Romania and Spain, in the Congo and Algeria, indicate that there is still a viable usefulness for both mediumwave and shortwave radio in many different parts of our old world.

This feature was written by Adrian Peterson and originally aired on Adventist World Radio’s “Wavescan” DX program of April 30, 2023

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