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Radio in Samoa

5ZA-ZMAP-2AP in Apia

by Dr Adrian Peterson


A listener confirmation (QSL) card for the English language Second Channel of 2AP, 1980

It was very early in the wireless era that a spark gap Morse Code station was established at Apia on the main island of Upolu. At the time, Western Samoa was a German colony and the transmitter was a newly designed Telefunken unit with the "singing spark" technology.

However, soon after the commencement of the European War in 1914, New Zealand troops landed in Samoa, captured the islands, and the radio station also. From then onwards, this maritime station in the Samoan Islands was on the air under the callsign VMG.

Wireless broadcasting came to Samoa, at least temporarily, way back in the pioneer eras. It happened this way.

A New Zealander, Mr. E. R. Plominski of 3ZC in Christchurch, was granted a radio broadcasting license for a station in Apia in 1931. It would seem that he sold this license soon afterwards to a newly formed company, the Apia Radio Corporation.

This new station was soon afterwards inaugurated with 5 watts on 940 kHz under the callsign ZL5ZA. However, station 5ZA was on the air for less than two years and it was closed on March 31, 1933.

For a period of more than 10 years, Western Samoa was without its own radio station, though it was possible during the hours of darkness to hear stations located on the Pacific rim. Soon after the end of the Pacific War, another New Zealander enters the picture. He was the noted Alan Roycroft who went on afterwards to radio fame in Hawaii as the engineering director for many of their mediumwave stations.

2AP letterhead

Well known New Zealand broadcaster Erin Sinclair worked at 2AP in 1973.

Alan Roycroft was stationed in Apia with ample free time to pursue a radio dream. He modified a 300 watt auxilliary aircraft beacon in Apia so that it could be switched from one operation to another. On the longwave channel 450 kHz it was on the air as an aircraft beacon with the continuous broadcast of the letters AP in Morse Code, and on mediumwave 630 kHz it was on the air as radio broadcasting station ZMAP.

Roycroft also set up an auxilliary studio in his hotel bedroom for his unofficial though highly appreciated radio station. He played music records, carried live broadcasts of band concerts on the hotel verandah, and read news bulletins into the microphone. However, this impromptu and short-lived radio broadcasting station highlighted the need for a regular station in Samoa, and the governor made such a request during his next visit to New Zealand. Thus was born the now very familiar radio station 2AP.

Apia in Western Samoa has been on the air shortwave during three different eras. When the mediumwave station was established in 1946 a shortwave transmitter fed the programming from the studio building by the seashore on the edge of Apia to the mountain top transmitter some 7 miles distant. This feeder transmitter was on the air on 7700 kHz under the callsign ZMB6.

2AP letterhead

Letterhead detail from the Broadcasting Department, 2AP in 1982.

This unique feeder service was heard back in 1946 by three well known DXers in the United States; Roger Legge, Mr Dilg, and August Balbi. Transmitter ZMB6 is shown as emitting 2 kW, but it is suggested that this was in reality probably just .2 kW.

A second era of shortwave broadcasting in Western Samoa began in 1951 with the installation of a .2 kW transmitter, perhaps the same unit that was in use earlier as a feeder transmitter. Radio personnel from New Zealand worked on the installation of this unit and on several occasions, test broadcasts were announced, and then postponed. These test broadcasts finally went to air in August 1953.

A new QSL card was printed for the occasion, with the callsign 2AP in large red letters, and the text in black, on a white card. This transmitter was never in use for regular relays of broadcast programming. Two channels were allocated, 6040 kHz and 3241 kHz, though only 6040 was reported as heard overseas.

A third era of shortwave broadcasting from Samoa began to appear on the horizon when 2AP announced that plans were in hand for the installation of a shortwave transmitter during the year 1990. However, we have no reference anywhere in our files that this station was ever operative.

In 1994, the noted DX reporter, William Matthews, arranged a special relay of radio station 2AP in his DX Report from Radio Korea International. This relay took place on February 20, 1994 and it was heard worldwide in the shortwave relay stations carrying KBS programming. Special QSL cards were issued from Apia by station 2AP for this unique relay.

Mediumwave station 2AP has been on the air from 5 different locations, from the nearby mountain height Afiamatu, and with low power from three different regional locations. They are currently on the air with two units of 10 kW, with English on 540 kHz and Samoan on 747 kHz.

Is it possible to hear the radio station in Samoa these days? Well, yes and no. If you happen to live in close proximity to the Pacific Ocean and if you have a long beverage antenna, you could hear this station. If you live in a nearby island area or in Australia or New Zealand, you can hear this station on a good mediumwave receiver. If you were to take vacation to the Pacific, then you could hear this station also.

Station 2AP has issued several different QSL cards over the years, and if you happen to own one of these cards, it is indeed an exotic addition to your collection.

Radio Broadcasting in Western Samoa Timelines Unit Date Event

  • Coastal Wireless 1913? Construction
    • 1914 Captured; became VMG
  • Early Mediumwave 1931 5ZA license issued
    • 1933 Closed
  • Roycroft Radio 1946? Converted aircraft beacon ZMAP
  • Shortwave Program Feed 1946 ZMB6 relay from Apia studios to transmitter
    • 1949? Closed
  • Shortwave Broadcaster 1954 ZM2AP .2 kW tests on 6040 kHz
  • Shortwave Broadcaster 1990 2AP 60 m band projected
  • KBS Relay 1994 DX relay on KBS SW network
  • 2AP Mediumwave
    • Afiamatu English 1947 Test broadcasts
    • 1948 Inauguration Jan 31 2 kW AWA 1440
    • 1962 Replaced by 10 kW AWA on 1404 kHz
    • 1988 Replaced by 2.5 kW Nautel
    • 1990 Closed
  • Afiamatu Samoan 1967 3 kW Wilkinson 1062 kHz
    • 1990 Closed
  • Natoi'i Relay 1981 Harris 1 kW on 540 kHz
    • 1990 Closed
  • Taga Relay 1981 Harris 1 kW on 1395 kHz
    • 1990 Closed
  • Asua Relay 1981 Harris 1 kW on 1251 kHz
    • 1990 Closed
  • Studio site 1990 3 Harris at 10 kW on 540, 540 & 747 kHz
  • FM Commercial 1989 98.1 Mhz separate from 2AP

Radio Broadcasting in Western Samoa References

  • Coastal Wireless Station
    • 1913 not listed; YBWTT 82.7
    • German station captured by "Australian" troops Aug 29 1914;
    • YBWTT 82.7 36
    • VMG NZ Apia; YBWTT 82.7 508
    • VMG Apia 1919; Radio papers 84.447 WIA List of Wireless Stations 1919
    • VMG NZ Apia 1921; YBWTT 82.7 578
    • VMG Apia 1928; Radio copies 79.1 AWA Radio Guide 1928 41
  • Early Mediumwave 5ZA
    • Licensed E. R. Plominski (3ZC Christchurch) Jan 24, 1931; Ragusa 8-10-01
    • Relicensed to Apia Radio Corporation 26-6-31; Ragusa 18-10-01
    • Closed March 31, 1933; Ragusa 18-10-01
    • 5ZA Apia Samoa 940 kHz 5 watts; YB 84.200 80, RCBN 4-33 606
    • ZL5ZA Apia 940 kHz 5 watts; YB 84.200 116, RN 11-35 282
  • Roycroft's Air Beacon Mediumwave Station - Roycroft article, NZDXT
    • 300 watt 450 kHz auxiliary beacon AP,Morse, Pilot Point Apia after WW2 1946?
    • Collier & Beale transmitter rigged switch between 450 & 630, longwire antenna
    • "Studio" in cramped hot hut, rigged alternative in bedroom in Aggie Grey's Hotel
    • US gov offered assistance for station in Samoa, refused
  • Apia on Shortwave - 1st Era
    • "Apia Radio" ZMB6 7700 Sept tests heard by Legge, Dilg, Balbe RN 12-46 152
    • "Apia Radio" ZMB6 7700 not heard lately; RN 1-47 147
    • ZM2AP 7700; RN 84.267 8-48
    • ZM2AP 7700 kHz 2 kW under control NZBS; WRHB 1949 64
    • Programs relayed from Apia to Afiamalu by SW; NZL 15-7-49 7
    • Samoa not listed 1950, 1951 WRHB
  • Apia on Shortwave - 2nd Era
    • NZBS outpost station Apia tests soon 2 kW 3410 & 6040 kHz; RTVN 10-51 154
    • ZM2AP SW tests due soon; RTVN 1-52 152
    • ZM2AP 2kW on 1420, 6040 & 3410 kHz; WRHB 1952 76
    • Apia planned tests cancelled; R&H 79.14 3-52 98
    • 2AP Apia SW tests cancelled; RTVN 4-52 153
    • 2AP tests soon 6040; RTVN 2-53 140
    • ZM2AP 6040 tests soon; RTVN 5-53 133
    • ZM2AP tests planned for May 1953 6040 then 3241; R&H 79.14 6-53 90
    • ZM2AP operated by NZBS; R&H 79.14 6-53 90
    • Apia tests 6040 then 3241 due in August; RTVN 8-53 92
    • ZM2AP tests on air in early August 1954 6040; R&H 79.14 11-53 98
    • ZM2AP new QSL card large red letters, black on white; R*H 79.14 11-53 98
    • 2AP (2Kw 1420) 3241 & 6040 .2 kW test purposes only; WRHB 1954 -1956
    • 2AP SW not listed; WRHB 1957
  • Apia on Shortwave - 3rd Era
    • 2AP plans SW transmitter for 1990 in 60 m band; ADXN 3-89 8
  • Samoa on Mediumwave
    • 2AP began broadcasts (tests?) with studios in Apia on August 5, 1947; Tibben
    • 2AP inaugurated on January 31, 1948; NZDXT 20 reprint NZL 20-2-48 NZDXT
    • Studios located at Mulinu'u 1 mile from Apia close to beach; NZL 15-7-49 7
    • 2 kW AWA transmitter 1440 on mountain Afiamalu; Tibben
    • Primary purpose for governor to communicate with population; Tibben
    • Afiamalu transmitter upgraded in 1962 to 10 kW AWA on 1404; Tibben
    • 3 kW Wilkinson 1062 kHz installed Afiamalu for Samoan channel 1967; Tibben
    • 3 Harris 1 kW installed 1981; Natoi'i 540, Taga 1395, Asua 1251; Tibben
    • Afiamalu 10 kW replaced by 2.5 kW Nautel in 1988; Tibben
    • All off-sitie MW transmitters closed 1990; Tibben
    • New transmitting facility at studios; 3 Harris 10 kW, 2 on 540 1 on 747; Tibben
    • 2AP to receive new MW transmitters; NZDXT 14
    • 2AP 1kW destroyed in hurrcane, new MW units planned; NZDXT 12
    • 2AP receives Australian Aid package 2 @ 10 kW MW; ADXN 7-90 12
    • 3 MW units in Western Samoa; NZDXT 5
  • KBS Relay
    • Arranged by William Matthews 20-2-94; QSL card
  • Commercial FM
    • Introduced 1989; Tibben

This article was originally prepared for broadcast over AWR in December 2001.

Images are © David Ricquish Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation


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