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Column: Wavescan

by Adrian Peterson

Australian Radio Balikpapan

image of PHOHI Philips' Omroep Holland-Indie logo

PHOHI Philips' Omroep Holland-Indie broadcast to the Dutch East Indies. Logo 1936.
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

As soon as things settled down in Balikpapan, the Australian army personnel got themselves busy in the area of radio broadcasting. They began to make program broadcasts over the camp amplifier system under a pretend radio station callsign TBC, which had the probable meaning, "The Balikpapan Company".

The first actual radio broadcasting station in this sequence was 7KM, which could be understood as a valid callsign for a mediumwave broadcasting station on the island of Tasmania in Australia. This shortwave station was established in August 1945 by the Australian Signal Corp and it operated with just 12 watts in the 7 MHz band. Station 7KM was originally allocated the channel 7880 kHz but it soon moved to 7960 kHz to avoid interference. The transmitter itself was a low power Australian army unit, though the auxiliary equipment was assembled from abandoned Japanese equipment. Broadcasting station 7KM was on the air for three broadcast sessions daily, it was on the air for just 10 weeks, it was heard quite regularly up to 500 miles distant, and it was closed in October when the AAAS station 9AG was inaugurated in Balikpapan.

Next on the radio scene in Balikpapan was the mobile station 9AG. This 200 watt broadcast facility was part of a 21 station network established by AAAS, the Australian Army Amenities Service. Original government announcements in Australia at the end of 1944 and in early 1945 indicated that this particular unit was not allocated to a specific location, but it would be available to move to any desired location in the Pacific/Asian arena. It was stated at the time that each of the seven mobile stations at 200 watts would be built into three army trucks, each truck rated at three ton capacity.

image of Radio Station 9AG, Balikpapan, Dutch East Indies

Radio Station 9AG, Balikpapan, Dutch East Indies. Exterior view of the radio station, with one of the 90 ft masts in the foreground.
Australian War Memorial Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Although several of these mobile mediumwave stations were heard throughout Australia and New Zealand with test broadcasts beginning around mid 1945, there is no tangible evidence that 9AG was heard with any test broadcasts. Perhaps mobile station 9AG did make a series of test broadcasts in Australia and these broadcasts escaped detection by radio monitors? Perhaps 9AG did not make any test broadcasts before it was taken up into the islands? Or perhaps 9AG was taken up to Balikpapan in crates with the intention of installing it into a regular building that was already under construction? Who knows?

Suffice it to say that station 9AG was inaugurated in its own building in Balikpapan in October 1945 and it was on the air as an AAAS entertainment mediumwave station at this location for a period of a little under half a year. The last day of operation for station 9AG as an AAAS station was February 28, 1946. Next day, this station was taken over by the Dutch colonial government in Borneo.

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

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Adrian Peterson 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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