Adrian Peterson’s Diary, June 1998
History of Broadcasting in the Indian Subcontinent
Pt. II, Independent India
In Part I of this series (see the March, 1998 Journal), I presented the story of radio broadcasting in the Indian subcontinent up until the time of Indian independence at midnight on August 14, 1947. In this part, I take up the story of radio broaacasting in India following its independence from Great Britain. Then we look at radio broadcasting in Pakistan since independence.
At the time of partition 50 years ago, there were just 14 radio stations on the air in the whole of India. Nine of these were medium powered stations operated in the larger cities by All India Radio, and five were lower powered stations operated by the local governments in princely states in central and south India. These latter stations all joined the All India Radio network in 1950.
In addition to the 14 mediumwave transmitters at these stations, there were also six shortwave transmitters. They were on the air as VUB Bombay, VUC Calcutta, VUD Delhi, and VUM Madras. A small shortwave unit located at Baroda was already off the air by the time of partition.
Because of the new political circumstances after partition, India moved quickly to install a series of new radio stations, particularly in areas bordering on the new nation of Pakistan. Just a few months after partition, new mediumwave stations were installed in the Punjab at Jullunder and Amritsar, and in Kashmir at Jammu and Srinagar.
The new station at Jammu had a particularly interesting history. In 1947, just before partition, a shortwave station of just 300 watts was established in Mysore by the fabled Maharajah. This is the station that introduced the usage of the now familiar identification announcement, “Akashvani.” Soon afterwards, this station was upgraded with the installation of a new 5 kw mediumwave unit. The original 300 watt transmitter was then flown up to Jammu in the Himalaya mountains by a Dakota airplane, where it was installed for mediumwave coverage.
As a significant counter measure during this era, just six months after Indian independence the Portuguese authorities established a radio station in their colony at Goa. This station also operated on shortwave, and it was heard far afield in North America, Europe and the Pacific. When Goa was incorporated into India five years after independence, the radio station was absorbed into the nationwide network of All India Radio.
Throughout the years, All India Radio has increased the number of local radio stations throughout the country. Today there are more than 300 mediumwave and FM transmitters on the air throughout India, with programming in more than 150 languages.
On the shortwave scene, All India Radio has also increased its internal coverage of the entire country through the installation of regional shortwave transmitters. Currently there are such transmitters located in some 30 regional cities throughout the country. Most are rated at 50 kw, and under optimum conditions they can be heard in Europe, North America and the Pacific.
All India Radio introduced an interesting innovation into shortwave broadcasting by synchronizing four transmitters at four widely scattered locations, all on one channel. These 100 kw units are located in Delhi, Bombay, Madras and Calcutta, and can be heard carrying the Vividh Bharati program on 10330 kHz.
The international shortwave service of All India Radio began in 1939 with just two shortwave transmitters located on the edge of Delhi. Today, All India Radio operates more than 20 high powered shortwave transmitters at half a dozen different locations.
Many of the stations in the extensive network of All India Radio will confirm reception reports with a colorful postcard depicting cultural and tourist scenes throughout the country. Sometimes these stations will verify direct, and sometimes via the head office of All India Radio in New Delhi.
Pt. III, Independent Pakistan
When Pakistan achieved its independence on August 14, 1947, there were just two radio stations in the whole of the territory now known as Pakistan (then called West Pakistan). These stations were located in Lahore, the capital city of the Punjab province; and in the city of Peshawar, in the North West Frontier province.
The station in Lahore, identified with the call sign VUL before partition, was redesignated as APL. At the time, APL was on the air with 5 kw on 1086 kHz. Before partition the station in Peshawar was identified as VUP. It was redesignated as APP. At the time it operated with just 250 watts on 1500 kHz. There were no other radio broadcasting stations in the whole of west Pakistan.
Over the years, Radio Pakistan developed its internal radio network to the point where today there are 24 mediumwave transmitters on the air, many quite high powered. Five are rated at 100 kw, two at 300 kw, and one at a megawatt. This super high power transmitter is located near the national capital, Islamabad, and broadcasts the External Service of Radio Pakistan to neigboring countries on 585 kHz. In addition, there is a nationwide network of FM stations throughout Pakistan.
The first shortwave transmitter in Pakistan was activated in Karachi on the first anniversary of independence, August 14, 1948. It was a low powered unit of 250 watts which was on the air under the callsign APK. Shortly afterwards, two new transmitters of 50 kw each were installed at a new location in a nearby country area, and the original low power transmitter was removed to Lahore where it was reactivated on November 1, 1949 as APL2. It was soon replaced by a 1 kw unit and was on the air for a only a few years. QSLs for APL2 shortwave in Lahore are indeed very rare.
It is speculated that the shortwave transmitter that Radio Pakistan established at Murree, in the Himalayas, in 1954 was the same low power 300 watt unit that was on the air earlier in Karachi, and then Lahore. A further speculation is that it might also have been part of the background scene for Azad Kashmir Radio. As far as is known, there are no QSLs in existence for the Radio Pakistan Murree shortwave station.
Additional regional shortwave transmitters of 10 kw each have been established at Quetta, on the border with Afghanistan; at Peshawar, on the edge of the famed Khyber Pass; and at Rawalpindi, in the capital city area. Currently Karachi is on the air with four shortwave transmitters, two of 50 kw and two of 10 kw.
The main shortwave transmitter base of Radio Pakistan is a double facility located 15 miles along the famous highway known as the Main Trunk Road. This double facility contains eight transmitters, rated at 10, 100 and 250 kw. This is the station that is heard widely in the External Service of Radio Pakistan, and for which many QSL cards and letters have been issued.