The Forgotten Story

Australia’s Longwave Stations

This article was originally material for a broadcast of “Wavescan” via Adventist World Radio in August 2001, 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 August 1 2001. Author: Adrian Peterson

Back in the early 1920’s, radio broadcasting was launched in North America and in Europe. Just two wavelengths were allocated initially for use in the United States; weather reports & essential news on 485 metres (618 kHz) and entertainment and lectures on 360 metres (833 kHz). As the number of stations began to proliferate, additional channels were allocated for broadcasting and ultimately the mediumwave Broadcast Band as we know it today was established.

Over in Europe, the first radio broadcasting stations were allocated channels in two major areas of the electronic spectrum, in what we would now call the longwave band and the mediumwave band. It was considered at the time that the best way to gain extensive radio coverage was with very high power on longwave. This same concept was implemented in Australia for the first radio broadcasting stations on the island continent “down under”.

License Number 1 was issued by the PMG Department in Australia to Farmer & Company in Sydney, New South Wales in 1923. The allocated callsign was 2FC and the allocated channel was 1120 metres with 5 kW. This longwave frequency corresponds to 267 kHz.

Four more licenses were issued by the PMG Department for stations in the longwave band, and these were:-

2FL Sydney .5 kW 770 metres 390 kHz
3FC Melbourne 5 1720 175
5MA Adelaide 3 850 353
6WF Perth 5 1250 240

However, in view of the fact that other stations were issued licenses to operate in the mediumwave band, there arose a conflict as to which band gave best results for broadcasting, and as time went by, the longwave stations migrated to the mediumwave band.

Let’s look briefly at the story of each of these Australian longwave broadcasting stations.

Station 2FC in Sydney moved to the mediumwave band in 1927, a little over three years after its inauguration. This station was later involved in experimental shortwave broadcasting with the famous pioneer station VK2ME. In subsequent years, 2FC was taken over by the ABC and its studios were used for the first broadcasts of Radio Australia in 1939. This station was also on the air shortwave domestically through the now silent 2 kW VLI at Liverpool.

The projected station 2FL in Sydney was also owned by the same Farmer & Company, but the station was never launched.

Station 3FC in Melbourne was given a new callsign before it went on the air, the now well known 3LO. This station was also associated with experimental shortwave broadcasting from the equally famous VK3ME in Melbourne. This station was also taken over by the ABC, and it has been continuously associated with Radio Australia. Station 3LO was also on the air shortwave domestically through the now silent 10 kW stations at Lyndhurst; VLR, VLG & VLH.

In Adelaide, South Australia, Millswood Autos was granted a license for station 5MA. However, this projected station was never launched and the license lapsed.

Over in Perth, Western Australia, station 6WF was granted a longwave broadcasting license and it remained the longest on longwave, a total of 5 years. It should also be remembered that station 6WF was associated with shortwave experimental broadcasting back in the early days.

Station 6WF was later taken over by the ABC, and subsequently three shortwave transmitters were installed. These units were on the air as VLW and VLX, and also with Radio Australia programming directed to South Africa and Indonesia.

Thus the entire era of longwave broadcasting in Australia extended over a period of nearly seven years. Three stations were actively on the air, and two other stations were licensed, but never erected.

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