Station Profile - VRT Radio 2 Kuurne

Kuurne plaqueIt was common knowledge in the MW DX world that Flemish VRT Radio 2 broadcasted on 540 kHz. Maybe less known (except among you, experts) is the fact that they also broadcasted on 1188 kHz via Kuurne (next to the town of Kortrijk) with low power, 5 kW, turning it into a real DX catch for several DXers.

Before 23 November 1978, the date on which VRT Radio 2 started broadcasting on the frequency, 1188 kHz was a well-known offshore frequency. In the sixties and seventies it was used by stations like Radio Caroline, Atlantis, Seagull, Mi Amigo, and Veronica. Originally, the Kuurne transmitter served as a support frequency for people living in the West-Vlaanderen province (West Flanders) in combination with an other support transmitter in coastal Bredene, which had only a few hundred watts.

1188 kHz also broadcasted the West Flanders regional programme. However, the frequency was totally useless as it had no listeners whatsoever. The whole province was (and is) well supplied with the FM frequency (100.1 MHz).

Kuurne buildingWhy on earth the VRT was still broadcasting on that frequency remained a complete mystery. Some well-informed voices said that they simply wanted to occupy that frequency in order to prevent any commercial stations to take it. The VRT had an actual (not theoretical) monopoly of broadcasting 'nationwide' in Flanders, although this was illegal according to European legislation. Also, they continued their simulcast transmissions (i.e. same programmes on both FM and AM) which was also illegal.

Weirdly enough no one at the VRT seemed even aware that this transmitter still existed and was still broadcasting 24 hours a day. At night, just before the VRT switched of the 540 kHz in Waver, a lot of presentors say goodnight to listeners of medium wave, totally ignoring the fact that the relay station in Kuurne continued to broadcast.

In 2001 some people proved that not a single person, except for the occasional DXer, listened to the Kuurne transmitter, not even the VRT itself.

Kuurne antennaOn several occasions the frequency was grabbed by a pirate station calling itself The Voice of Love. Was this a daring exploit of some crazy boffins? Not at all as the Radio 2 programmes reached the 1188 kHz in a very 'easy' way: The roof of the dumpy transmitter building in Kuurne hosted simple FM antennae. They captured the FM signal of Radio 2 in Egem that was then rebroadcast via medium wave. It sufficed to broadcast yourself in the immediate surroundings of the transmitter site with a weak FM transmitter (5 Watts is more than enough) on the FM frequency (100.1 MHz) and instead of Radio 2 your programme was sent out on 1188 kHz. That's exactly what happened in 2001. Not a soul, not even the VRT, ever knew this was happening.

On 31 March 2008 the transmitter was shut down.

Pictures are copyrighted to Sebastian Serruys, Maarten Van Den Driessche, and Jeroen Verweide. Thanks to Jeroen Verweide for permission to use the pictures.