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Column: Wavescan

by Adrian Peterson

American Radio Stations in Australia - 4QR

radio history image of US Forces Broadcast From 4QR Brisbane

[L-R] Gerry De Vries, George Mattar and John G Dietrich prepare to go on the air from 4QR.
© John Dietrich Collection, courtesy Ruth Dietrich, Radio Heritage Foundation.

Here you'll find a very interesting entry regarding the American usage of a radio broadcasting station in Australia. Now, it is a well known fact down under that the New Zealand Broadcasting Service made one of its mediumwave stations available to the American forces for much of the year 1944. This station that was on loan to the American forces as part of the Mosquito Network was 1ZM in Auckland with 1 kW on 1250 kHz. However, it is not so well known that the American forces were granted the usage of a mediumwave radio station on a part time basis in Australia also. This is how it happened.

Back at the beginning of the year 1938, the ABC in Queensland, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, inaugurated a new mediumwave station in the state capital, Brisbane. They already had one station on the air at the time, the thirteen year old 4QG, though this station is now identified under the generic callsign 4RN. The new 1938 station is now known as 4QR, though at the time of its inauguration, it was on the air as 4BR. These Brisbane radio station callsigns all have a meaning, such as:-

    image of Australian Hotel, Brisbane

    American soldiers outside the Australian Hotel, Brisbane
    © AIS Pictorial Collection, National Library of Australia.

  • 4   Identification digit for mediumwave radio stations in Queensland Australia
  • 4QG Queensland Government
  • 4RN Radio National
  • 4BR Brisbane Radio
  • 4QR Queensland Radio

Anyway, at the turn of events in 1944, radio station 4QR was on the air from the ABC studios in downtown Brisbane that were shared with its sister station 4QG. At the time, 4QG carried the National Service on relay from the ABC headquarters in Sydney, and 4QR carried what was called the Alternative Service, that is locally produced ABC programming. The transmitter for 4QR, rated at 1 kW on 940 kHz, was quite newly installed at the familiar ABC property at Bald Hills, just a few miles north of Brisbane.

Now, in the latter half of the year 1943, station 4QR began the regular rebroadcast of an American program under the generic title, The American Program. These broadcasts were recorded in the United States and sent by air to Australia, though in some cases, the programming came by undersea cable or shortwave radio.

image of John Wayne in Australia

US actor John Wayne entertained US troops in Brisbane, 1943
© John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Then, a month or two later, a detachment of American personnel was sent to Brisbane for the specific purpose of preparing radio programs that would appeal to American servicemen on leave in Australia. Brisbane was the chosen location mainly because General MacArthur had established his South Pacific headquarters in the same city. The Australian government made the studios and transmitter facilities of 4QR in Brisbane available part time for the American programming, some of which was broadcast live and some from recordings.

It just so happened that the new ABC shortwave station, 10 kW VLQ, had been installed at the same Bald Hills facility earlier in the same year, and at times this shortwave unit also carried this American programming in parallel with mediumwave 4QR.

Early in the following year, 1944, the American usage of 4QR was brought directly under AFRS, the American Forces Radio Service, and shortly afterwards again, this usage was terminated. Thus, this whole unique project, the American involvement with program production at 4QR and the broadcast of this programming over mediumwave 4QR and shortwave VLQ, lasted no more than half a year.
image of US Army Band, 1942

US Army Band saxophonists play 'big band' music, Brisbane 1942.
© John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

So what happened to these two transmitters then? The original 1 kW mediumwave transmitter in use with 4QR at this time was relegated in 1948 to emergency usage only when a 10 kW STC transmitter was installed, and it was finally withdrawn from service completely in 1960 when a 50 kW transmitter was installed. As far as the shortwave VLQ is concerned, the original 10 kW unit was finally withdrawn from service in 1988. I guess both units were just simply scrapped.

As far as can be discerned, there are no known QSLs from 4QR nor VLQ for the American part time era that stretched from late 1943 into early 1944.

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

image of Adventist World Radio logo
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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