History of MW broadcasting in Wien and Niederösterreich

Written by Stefan Greve, revised by Walter Brummer.

From Radio Hekaphon to RAVAG

Austrian Radio started with private test transmissions April 1, 1923, using a 0.1 kW transmitter on 500 kHz. Since December 13, an entertainment programme named "Radio Hekaphon" was broadcasted.

The official broadcaster "Radio-Verkehrs-AG" (RAVAG) took over on August 5, 1924.
The transmitter Wien-Stubenring (0.35 kW, 566 kHz) replaced the one of Radio Hekaphon on October 1, 1924. In January 1925 the power was raised to 0.7 kW, and since 1926 the frequency was 520 kHz.
However, at this time the Stubenring transmitter was already demoted to "Wien II", but remained active until 1928.

"Wien I" was the transmitter Rosenhügel, on air since January 30, 1926.
On May 8, 1928 a new 15 kW transmitter is installed, while the original (7 kW) is moved to Graz. The frequency was always 580 kHz.

The Bisamberg transmitter

The 100 kW transmitter Bisamberg replaced Wien-Rosenhügel on May 28, 1933. In 1934 the frequency was changed from 580 to 592 kHz.
Since Wien is located in the east of Austria, in 1934 a reflector mast east of the transmitter mast was installed, directing the transmissions towards the west. This principle was used for the first time in Europe.

Germany annexed Austria in 1938, and Bisamberg carried the new "Reichssender Wien".
The end of the "Reich" also marked the end of the transmitter. On April 13, 1945, the SS blew it up. The transmitter as well as the two Blaw-Knox towers where completely destroyed.

An additional transmitter "Wien II", probably a military  transmitting unit (broadcasting on 250 kHz), was moved westward to Bad Aussee in April 1945.
(There it briefly became "Freiheitssender Ausseerland".)

In 1945, Austria was split into four Occupation Zones. Wien was split into five Sectors (American, British, French, Soviet, and International), and became the capital of the Soviet Zone.

The Soviet Sector

"Radio Wien" returned to air on April 29, 1945.
Until 1950, two 10 kW-transmitters are active: Wien I on 592 kHz and Wien II on 1312 kHz. The Soviet controlled station used the old name "RAVAG". The power of 10 kW is based on a supposition because the Soviets did not make public any transmitter power data at that time.
Since 1950 Wien I (584 kHz, 35 kW) came from Bisamberg, while Wien II (1475 kHz, 2 kW) was located in the Thaliastraße in the French Sector.
The Copenhagen plan allowed 120 kW for 584 kHz, while 1475 kHz was scheduled as common wave of Austrian stations with moderate power. (For Wien II, 30 kW was planned.)

The American Sector

"Rot-Weiß-Rot", the broadcaster of the American Zone, also had a transmitter in Wien, first with only 1 kW on 731 kHz. The transmitter site was located at the Sulzwiese just 1 km west of todays Kahlenberg FM & TV tower. Soon the frequency was changed to 1429 kHz and to 755 kHz on March 15, 1950.
Circa 1948 the power of the station was raised to 15 kW.
Because the Sulzwiese transmitter site was barely outside Vienna’s city boundary in the Sovjet zone of Niederösterreich [but also the official airport of the US forces in Austria was in the Sovjet zone], a change in location was strongly required. In 1951 the transmissions were moved to a new site at the Wilhelminenberg. Initially, the 100 kW transmitter was used with 20 kW on a provisory antenna mast, but since 1953 the transmitter Wilhelminenberg  with 100 kW was the strongest in Wien. A new antenna consisted of two masts which allowed directional transmissions towards the west.
On both sites – Sulzwiese and Wilhelminenberg – foundations for masts and guys exists until today.

Also, an 1 kW-transmitter carried AFN’s "Blue Danube Network" – also mentioned with the US callsign WOFA – on 1068 kHz (switched to 1142 kHz on March 15, 1950 , in late 1950/early 1951 to 1034 kHz).

The British Sector

For the "Alpenland" programme a 6 kW-transmitter on 1285 kHz (synchronized with Graz and Klagenfurt) was used until 1949. Then 565 kHz (566 kHz since 1952) was used with 15 kW. The location of this transmitter was in the southern part of the park of Schönbrunn palace. During the year 1953 the transmitter power obviously was reduced significantly to 0.25 kW. Between July 8, 1954 and the end of “Alpenland”on July 27, 1955 the frequency was 520 kHz with an indicated power of 1.5 kW.

BFN was active on 868 kHz with 0.8 kW and kept this frequency until the end of transmissions in 1955. The transmitter was located in the third city district south of the centre of Vienna.

(The French Sector had no radio stations.)

Reunification

On November 1, 1953 allied radio programmes were merged to a national Austrian Radio. Two nationwide programmes were to be formed with the best possible use of existing transmitting equipment – a complicated and long-winding matter.

The first programme with focus on information was to be regional with subsidiaries in Vienna, Graz, Klagenfurt, Linz, Salzburg, Innsbruck and Dornbirn. The second programme with focus on education and cultural events was to be national. Moreover, a third national (FM) programme existed since September 6, 1953 on experimental basis with focus on light music.

Initially, the second programmes of “Radio Wien”, “Rot-Weiß-Rot” and “Sendergruppe Alpenland” were merged. Innsbruck followed on December 21, 1953. Dornbirn had no second programme at that time. Since February 14, 1954 common news were produced on all programmes, but own programmes of “Radio Wien”, “Rot-Weiß-Rot” and “Sendergruppe Alpenland” were permitted until July 27, 1955, because the Austrian State Treaty, which regulated allied forces drawdown, was signed on March 15, 1955.

On March 15, 1954, “Radio Wien”, “Rot-Weiß-Rot” and “Sendergruppe Alpenland” are merged to “Österreichischer Rundfunk”. “Sendergruppe West” with Innsbruck and Dornbirn followed in 1955.

On March 8, 1954, the "Rot-Weiß-Rot" frequency 584 kHz was given to the 100 kW-transmitter Linz-Kronstorf (formerly on 773 kHz) for the National Programme. Wien I (Bisamberg) switched to 566 kHz, formerly used by “Sendergruppe Alpenland”, which changed to 520 kHz.

"Rot-Weiß-Rot" Wien on 755 kHz was closed on July 27, 1955. Now Wilhelminenberg (100 kW) carried the National Programme on 584 kHz (Linz-Kronstorf switched to 1025 kHz, synchronized with Graz-Dobl).

On November 6, 1955 the Regional Programme changed from 566 kHz to the ultimate frequency of 1475 kHz, operated with 25 kW from Bisamberg. Until July 28, 1955, the 1475 kHz from the Thaliastraße transmitter were used for National Programme respectively Wien II.

The "Alpenland" transmitter Wien-Schönbrunn on 520 kHz took over the National Programme since July 28, 1955, but was closed on December 11, 1955.

The “Blue Danube Network” was switched off in Vienna on August 28, 1955, while “British Forces Network” ran until September 25, 1955.

Raise of Power

Since August 17, 1959, both 584 and 1475 kHz came from Bisamberg with 150 kW. For each frequency a pair of 120 kW-transmitters and a separate antenna are used. Todays antenna masts at the Bisamberg originally came from the big directional antenna system at Linz-Kronstorf, built by the use US in 1950/51. Two of three antenna masts at Kronstorf were dismantled end of 1956 and subsequently rebuilt at the Bisamberg.

In 1967 the National Programme became "Österreich 1", while the Regional was now "Österreich Regional".

The Geneva Plan (1974/75) allowed to raise the power on both frequencies to 1200 kW.
The first 600 kW-transmitter was activated in 1975. It carried 584 kHz at day and 1475 kHz at night. Other times, the power was 240 kW.

Decline

Instead of installing three more 600 kW-transmitters, Austrian Radio drastically reduced its medium wave broadcasts in 1977. From now on, only a mix of all three programmes is broadcasted over the frequencies of "Ö 1", while the transmitters of "Ö R" are closed at September 5, 1977. However, additional to 584/585 kHz (600/240 kW), 1475/1476 kHz was still used with 600 kW at night.

During the 1980s and 1990s, one Austrian mediumwave transmitter after the other was closed.
Finally, Wien-Bisamberg ceased broadcasting on January 1, 1995.
As it seems, the era of AM broadcasting in Austria was over.

Revival

1476 kHz returned to air on March 21, 1997, using one of the 120 kW-transmitters with half power.
On May 3, 1999 the 600 kW-transmitter was reactivated for special broadcasts during the NATO attacks against Serbia. This lasted about three months.

In 2000, a transistorised 100 kW-transmitter (used with 60 kW) took over.

At the end of 2008, Austrian mediumwave broadcasts are ended again.


Low power stations

While Wien needed not that many low power relay transmitters as the stations in the alps, a few have been in use from the 1950s to 70s. The power was 0.05 kW (only St. Pölten was raised from 0.025 kW to 0.2 kW around 1956).
"I" relayed 1475 kHz, "II" relayed 584 kHz. All stations are in Niederösterreich (the small Burgenland never had any AM transmitters).

Amstetten I: 1457 kHz (c. 1953 to 1969)
Gloggnitz I: 1457 kHz (c. 1953 to 1955), 674 kHz (c. 1956 to 1971)
Gmünd I: 1394 kHz (c. 1966 to early 1970s)
Gmünd II: 1052 kHz (c. 1966 to early 1970s)
Krems I: 1052 kHz (c. 1953 to mid 1960), 1124 kHz (late 1960s)
Neunkirchen I: 1052 kHz (c. 1953 to early 1970s)
St. Pölten I: 1457 kHz (c. 1953 to 1955), 1484 kHz (c. 1956 to 1969)
Wiener Neustadt I: 1457 kHz (c. 1953 to May 31, 1968)
Zwettl I: 692 kHz (c. 1953 to 1960), 1594 kHz (c. 1961 to mid 1970s)
Zwettl II: 1142 kHz (c. 1967 to mid 1970s)

The installation of new transmitters was stopped in 1969, but the full network was part of the Geneva plan from 1975.


Main sources:
http://members.aon.at/wabweb/frames/radioaf.htm
World Radio (TV) Handbook