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SuperRock KYOI Saipan

The Concept

image of KYOI Saipan QSL

Listener confirmation card issued by KYOI Saipan.
© Paul Ormandy Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation.

KYOI, located on Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands was a commercial shortwave station, on air 24 hours a day, broadcasting "Contemporary Hits" rock music directed at the Japanese market.

Superock KYOI was first heard testing on December 17 1982. Initial frequencies were 11900, 15190, 15405, and 9670kHz. The station was very well received in New Zealand, despite being off the 'back of the beam' and I for one enjoyed their music and frequently had KYOI playing in the back-ground.

The station was the brainchild of Lawrence Berger, who also owned KHVH-AM Honolulu, KUAM AM-FM Agana, Guam and WVUV-AM Pago Pago, American Samoa and who held a 50% shareholding in KYOI operator, MARCOM. The other owners were Fred Zeder (25%), then the Ambassador for Micronesia political status negotiations, and Adrian Perry (25%) the former President of Kentron Hawaii Limited (operators of WXLE Canton Island in the early 1970s).

Super-Rock KYOI had a carefully selected name - "Super" having a very strong, positive meaning in Japan, and "YOI" meaning "good" in Japanese. From its two 170 foot towers reaching into Pacific skies, the latest in rock music was beamed to a young Japanese audience of 18 to 30 year-olds from one end of Japan to the other. Major advertisers supporting the station and its programs were Seiko, Sony, Continental/Air Micronesia and a Japanese magazine.

The technical facilities on Saipan employed just 6 staff, working as operators, antenna riggers and whatever else was needed to keep the station on the air around the clock. All programs were prepared in Los Angeles, California by the Drake Chenault Company, which is why the jingle "Music from Los Angeles" was frequently heard, and then air-freighted to Saipan. KYOI retained a representative in Japan to advise the programmer of the latest in Japanese pop music trends. Sales of airtime were made in Japan, and bills paid from Honolulu with most business being conducted by telephone and telex. To quote station literature

"This is one at the most comprehensive international broadcasting operations and firmly places KYOI at the front in the development of Pacific broadcasting."

KYOI received thousands of letters and reception reports, and acknowledged all reports with cards postmarked "Saipan CM". The station also hoped to encourage interest in Saipan as a vacation spot.

The Finer Points

image of KYOI Saipan QSL

Details of listener reception of KYOI on shortwave from Saipan.
© Paul Ormandy Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

SuperRock KYOI was located on about 8 acres of land in southern Saipan, at a place with the name of Agingan Point. Both studio and transmitter facilities were co-sited in the same building, a 2000 square foot concrete structure designed to withstand hurricane winds of 150 mph and strength 3 earthquakes. The entire plant was self sufficient, with its own 450 kW diesel generator and a 2500 gallon water catchment system with filtering unit and compression tank.

In the event of a typhoon, KYOI could remain on air indefinitely. And typhoons caused minor typhoon damage in December 1986, and severe problems in being knocked off the air in October 1987, returning with 'shocking' audio for a period.

The transmitter was a Continental 418-D-2, 100kW high level plate modulated, with an automatic servo system, allowing pre tuning of channels in use. Three tubes sat in tanks of distilled water that boiled off into steam and then condensed back into water to be returned to the system.

The antenna system consisted of a complex and elaborate array, comprising 16 dipoles phased together directed towards an azimuth of 340 degrees true. The curtain and screen system designed to withstand 150 mph typhoon winds. A computer system was used to change frequency 4 times daily, completely eliminating operator error.

The music was run from a program automation system, which held up to 7 days of 24 hour programming. A time clock was incorporated allowing station IDs and frequency change announcements to be aired at predetermined times. Music, commercials and jingles were all called up from a series of carts by the computer system.

From what was a jungle of brush, the sound of Superock KYOI beamed out from state of the art facilities to listeners around the world.

The Future

After almost 3 years of operation, all indications were that this was a very well set-up venture though many including myself, were skeptical whether Superock KYOI could maintain the Japanese target audience by convincing them to stick to shortwave, and if not, how long would it be before advertisers "voted with their feet"?

In September 1985, KYOI advertised T-shirts for sale at US$15 each, then the first ruminations of trouble surfaced in November 1985 when the following announcement in English was heard...

"KYOI needs your help! For the past three years Superock KYOI has brought the best music in the World to the World. In thousands of letters you have sent us, you ask 'How does Superock KYOI support itself?'. We earn advertising revenue but not enough. We at Superock KYOI have supported it ourselves and the truth is we cannot do it anymore. If you want to keep KYOI hit music coming to you 24 hours a day we must have your help. You can help by sending a $10 annual contribution for which you will receive a KYOI certificate of appreciation, a souvenir decal and a history of Superock KYOI plus we will read your name, the country and hometown of each individual contributor on the air along with our thanks."

The first letters were read out within a month and the requests for assistance continued. In August 1986, the station indicated that US$20,000 was received in the appeal and at the same time, negotiations were under way to sell the station to the Christian Science Monitor. The purchase was announced on the 15th March 1987 with the change-over mid-July to late August with plans to add a second 100kW transmitter and adjustable antenna to cover Australia and New Zealand. The date was subsequently revised to January 4th 1988.

KYOI The End

image of KHBI QSL

This KHBI Saipan listener card shows the 195 degree antenna.
© Paul Ormandy Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

It would appear that the Christian Science Monitor actually took over operation of KYOI in early 1988. The announced address changed to that of CSM in Boston though the station maintained the rock music format.

In late March programming was changed slightly with the addition of a one-hour news program, with newscasts on the hour and half-hour from Boston then shortly thereafter another CSM production "Letterbox" was added.

Transmissions under the call-letters KYOI ceased on the 3rd of July 1989. Over the next 4 months the transmitters were silent until the 6th of November 1989 when CSM's station, Herald Broadcasting signed on with the call-letters KHBI.

This is an introduction to KYOI Saipan.
image link to Radio Heritage Foundation radio jingles

Off-air recording of KYOI Saipan during a test broadcast in December 1982
© Jerry Berg Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation Collection.

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