Wavescan: Balikpapan’s Oldest Continuous Radio Station

Balikpapan’s Oldest Continuous Radio Station

Adrian Petersen
Adrian Petersen

by Adrian Peterson

The Dutch authorities at The Hague in their homeland over in Europe began an interest in the usage of wireless very early. They established a Wireless Company in 1916, they installed two spark Morse Code stations on the Dogger Banks in 1917, they made their first wireless broadcast in 1920, they installed their first wireless stations in their East Indies in 1921, and they made the first wireless communication between Holland and their colonial enterprise in Java in 1923.

PHOHI Philips’ Omroep Holland-Indie broadcast to the Dutch East Indies. Logo 1936.
© Eric Shackle Collection, R

The first wireless station in the Dutch East Indies territory on Borneo was established in Balikpapan close to ninety years ago, in the year 1921 and its story extends over a lengthy period of time. It was a commercial facility established by the Dutch for Morse Code communication with shipping. This station was installed for the Batavia Petroleum Company and it operated under the Dutch East Indies callsign PKF. The original installation was a simple electrical facility, and as time went by, the mode of operation was upgraded with the implementation of electronic valve or tube equipment.

Somewhere around the year 1936, station YCP made its appearance in Balikpapan as a 3 kW facility on the international communication channel 8575 kHz and we would guess that this was the same station in a new vogue.

NIROM Map of Netherlands East Indies showing main centers, January 1939.
© Ray Crawford Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation.

As was the custom in those days, many communication stations also entered into a spate of irregular broadcasting as time and circumstances permitted. The available information would suggest that this was also the case with station YCP in Balikpapan during this pre-war era. Back in the year 1939, there are at least two references to the fact that QSL cards were issued from the colonial radio administration in Bandung on behalf of transmissions from station YCP in Balikpapan. In fact, at this stage, station YCP in Balikpapan was administered from station YBZ in Menado, and it is well established that the Menado station was in use with both communication traffic and program broadcasting. A year later, the callsign of the radio station in Balikpapan was amended from YCP to YCC and the channel in use at this stage became the more familiar 9120 kHz.

Batavia based NIROM directed broadcasts to Borneo. Main transmitter site for YDA 3040kc 10kW.
©Ray Crawford Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation.

With the changing fortunes of war in the Pacific, the Japanese took over the Balikpapan station undamaged on January 24, 1942, and history tells us that the station was used by the Japanese administration as a communication facility for the next two and a half years.

Surprisingly, six months before the coming change of political administration in Balikpapan from the Japanese to the Australians, presumably this radio station was heard in the United States as Radio Borneo on 9120 kHz with a program of music and talks. It would be interesting to learn who made these radio broadcasts at this time, and for what purpose.

Then on July 1, 1945, Australian troops arrived at Balikpapan Harbor on board HMAS Kanimbla, a ship that itself had been a noted radio broadcaster a few years earlier. During its earlier usage as a passenger liner, the Kanimbla was on the air with program broadcasting under the callsign 9MI. A black and white photograph lodged in the government archives in Canberra, Australia, shows the undamaged aerial masts at the Balikpapan station at this stage and the caption states that the station had been in use by the Dutch, the Japanese and the Australians. We might also add, that it was in use again subsequently by the Dutch, and then the Indonesians.

Typical PHOHI shortwave program for Balikpapan listeners, April 12 1936
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation.

Read this column with appendices and additional material from Wavescan Sunday December 30, 2007:

Download “Radio Broadcasting in Borneo – Kalimantan 1, Balikpapan/American Radio Stations in Australia – 4QR Brisbane by Adrian Petersen”

NWS8b.pdf – 327.63 KB

Adrian Petersen is a noted radio historian and broadcaster for many years with Indianapolis based Adventist World Radio, a global shortwave, AM, FM and satellite radio network. Originally from South Australia, Adrian has worked in radio across Asia and the Pacific and is well known worldwide for his long running Wavescan radio series. He has published an extensive number of radio heritage articles using his large database of historical information, and personally maintains the AWR heritage collection, one of the world’s largest privately held memorabilia collections.

Views expressed in this column are those of the author and may not necessarily represent those of the Radio Heritage Foundation. Send us your column comments and feedback.

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