The Search for an old Historic Shortwave Station KUSW

In 1939, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which is headquartered in Salt Lake City in Utah was interested in getting on the air on shortwave. They struck a deal through their mediumwave station KSL to buy shortwave station W9XAA from the Chicago Federation of Labor CFL which also operated operated the well known Chicago mediumwave station WCFL. However when the CFL license holders requested the FCC for approval to sell their shortwave station W9XAA to mediumwave KSL in Salt Lake City, Utah, the FCC denied the request.

QSL card from mediumwave station KSL confirming reception in New Zealand in November 1933.
© Radio Heritage Foundation, Hazel Edwards (nee Nichols) Collection

In 1962, through the International Educational Broadcasting Corporation IEBC in Salt Lake City the LDS Church succeeded in buying the well known historic shortwave station WRUL near Boston in Massachusetts. Two years later IEBC became Bonneville International, the parent company for all of the LDS radio interests.

Subsequently they changed the callsign from WRUL to WNYW, with studios in New York City. Both KSL mediumwave and WNYW shortwave were affiliated with the CBS radio network carrying CBS newscasts. In the process of time, WNYW became WYFR, and then WYFR became WRMI.

In the meantime, we go back to Utah and the story of their next shortwave station, Super Power KUSW, as they identified themselves. Some suggest that the very appropriate callsign KUSW rather obviously indicated Utah Short Wave, though other publications suggest that the callsign stood for the more grandiose United States Worldwide.

In 1987, the total facility for this new station was constructed in just five months in Murree Utah, south of Salt Lake City in the Salt Lake Valley. The offices, studios, and transmitter were all installed into the same building, and the adjacent antenna system was supported from two towers, 145 ft tall.

The 100 kW Harris transmitter Model SW100B was fitted with automatic tuning for 10 preset shortwave channels. This facilitated rapid frequency changing in just 10 seconds, which unfortunately led to them playing hopscotch in the shortwave bands, changing frequency every few hours much to the chagrin of their listeners who were never quite sure where to find them on the radio dial.

KUSW transmitter site, Murree, Utah.
Image from Monitoring Times, January 1988.

The TCI sloping net style log periodic antenna system Model 515-3 was capable of handling 100 kW on any frequency, ranging from 3.9 MHz up to 18 MHz. The antenna beam at 70° radiated its maximum power towards Ontario in Canada, though 10% was radiated from side and back lobes. Their target audience included all of North America, Europe and parts of Africa, and especially the two million Americans who were living outside the country back at that time.

The original intended date for the beginning of test transmissions from shortwave KUSW was November 20 (1987), with regular service commencing on December 1. However because of installation delays, the official inauguration date was ultimately moved to December 26 (1987).

Super Power KUSW Worldwide Radio (as the station identified on air) was owned by Carlson Communications who also owned a small network of AM mediumwave and FM stations in three adjoining states; Utah, Nevada & Arizona. The shortwave facility was associated with Carlson’s local stations KRSP AM and FM in Salt Lake City, with several of the KUSW presenters also having air shifts or other duties at KRSP.

The shortwave programming for KUSW was produced independently of the local stations though, this was not a relay situation. Subsequently the studios of KRSP FM were relocated into the same building as the well known KSL in Salt Lake City.

The regular scheduling for commercial shortwave KUSW contained a mix of contemporary secular rock and blues music, news, spoken word programs on Sundays from Temple Square in Salt Lake City, live coverage of some Utah sports, jazz, other religious programming, and twice a year, live coverage of LDS conferences.

As a supplemental income to support its broadcast coverage, KUSW also invited listeners to purchase sports and radio equipment, and novelty items from its Membership Catalog.

Religious programming over shortwave KUSW was brokered by Pan American Broadcasting in Cupertino CA, who also brokered programming over Radio Africa at Malabo in Equatorial Guinea with its 100 kW on 15190.

Soon after the shortwave station became airborne, reception reports began to arrive at the rate of around 30 each day. One reception report came from the pilot of an American air force plane who was listening while in flight. All reports were acknowledged with their QSL card, that showed an artistic representation of the distant mountain range. During the stations four years of on air operation, only one design of QSL card was issued, and it was available from KUSW in Utah and from Pan American in California.

KUSW QSL card. Image:

On December 20, 1990, the programming from shortwave KUSW was relayed via an American navy vessel off the coast of Panama in Central America during the downfall of President Manuel Noriega.

It is possible that the navy vessel that carried this unusual relay was the USS “Vreeland”. When the staff at KUSW were informed that their station was under relay off the coast of Panama, they went live with special programming.

Early plans for KUSW were to install a second shortwave transmitter for coverage into Latin America. However that never materialized. Like WNYW before therm back in the 1970s, KUSW found that advertisers were not sufficiently interested in the international audience for the station to be sustained on a commercial basis. So instead, KUSW was sold to the Trinity Broadcasting Network for around $2 million, just four years after the station was inaugurated. The last day for broadcasts as KUSW was Sunday December 16, 1991 and its on air programming ended at 0300 UTC on 11695 kHz.

Shortwave station KUSW in Salt Lake City Utah was sold to the Trinity Broadcasting Network for around $2 million towards the end of the year 1990, and the station ended its last broadcasts on Sunday December 16 (1990) at 0300 UTC. Two days later, Tuesday December 18, (1990) the station was reactivated under a new callsign, KTBN, indicating very obviously its new ownership, the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

Under the new owners, programming was always, and only, a relay from the audio channel of their TV network via satellite. Back then, the audio channel from four Adventist TV programs, quite similar in content to the audio programming from Adventist World Radio, were on relay via shortwave KTBN, for which QSL cards were offered from the AWR office in Indianapolis.

The pre-recorded station announcement from KTBN at the top of the hour identified the station and made requests for reception reports. Just two shortwave channels were in use, 7510 (7505) kHz (nighttime) and 15590 kHz (daytime).

Thirteen years later in June 2004, Trinity announced that they planned to close their shortwave station KTBN due to lack of listener response. However they remained on the air for four more years until it was finally closed on March 30, 2008. Thus KTBN left the air for ever; well not exactly, forever.

During its thirteen years of on air history, KTBN issued three different QSL cards, one in black & white and two in color, though each portrayed a photograph of the same distant mountain range that was featured previously on the KUSW QSL cards.

QSL card from KTBN received by a listener in New Zealand during 1993.
© Radio Heritage Foundation, Chris Mackerell Collection

Shortwave station KUSW-KTBN near Salt Lake City in Utah had been on the air for a total of 21 years, running from 1987 to 2008. The station’s shortwave transmitter and antenna system were then duly dismantled and shipped to the island of Anguilla in the Caribbean where it was added to the equipment that was already on the air at the station known as the Caribbean Beacon.

The Caribbean Beacon on Anguilla was originally launched as a mediumwave station, but in 1996 a new Continental 100 kW shortwave transmitter was installed at their Sandy Hill site, together with an antenna system that was previously in service with shortwave KGEI at Belmont in California. Twelve years later, the shortwave equipment from KUSW-KTBN was also incorporated into the Caribbean Beacon, which was then carrying the programming of Dr. Gene Scott’s University Network.

This feature was written by Adrian Peterson and originally aired on Adventist World Radio’s “Wavescan” DX program of November 7, 2021

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