A3Z Tonga BC (1017
was lucky to hear Tonga Broadcasting Commission
in Finland on November 13th 1998. I wrote a more
detailed report about the catch titled Nailing
Tonga, but here is a short overview of the station.
Initially I got no response from
the station, but In March 1999 I sent a follow-up
report and later an inquiry by telefax. This finally
prompted Chief Engineer Sioeli Maka Tohi to send
his kind confirmation letter by telefax. Later by
mail I also received their traditional QSL card
featuring call-letters A3Z.
Sioeli Maka Tohi was able to
confirm the report as all the details matched their
program rundown. Later he also told me that they
had recognized the announcers on the tape. Finally!
The station had never before been heard in Europe
on AM. For me Tonga became the 200th verified country
according to the conservative count of the Finnish
DX Association. A fitting reward indeed.
is a parliamentary kingdom of 110 000 inhabitants
scattered over dozens of islands totalling 750 square
kilometers. The capital Nuku'alofa is located on
the main island of Tongatapu. Like most smaller
Pacific nations, Tonga is relatively poor - for
example Finland's per capita GDP is eight times
A3Z Radio 1 on 1017 kHz, with
a power of 10 kilowatts, is the only AM transmitter
in the country. Both the public broadcaster Tonga
Broadcasting Commission (TBC) - known as the Call
of the Friendly Islands - and its private competitors
have transmitters on FM. Until now only private
companies have ventured into television, but TBC
is planning to set up a TV station. Originally the
deadline was November 1999, but it has been postponed,
says Chief Engineer Maka Tohi.
Until 1992 TBC used to operate
also a 1-kilowatt shortwave transmitter, which was
never heard in Finland. The transmitter has broken
down, and there are no plans to fix in the near
future, because AM easily covers the entire nation.
TBC contact information listed
in the World Radio TV Handbook is valid. In 2000
the station briefly had its own website, complete
with samples of their station identifications and
a chance to shop for TBC souvenirs, but unfortunately
it has been gone since early 2001.
Tonga Broadcasting Commission
has a staff of 60 people to run two radio channels,
both nearly 18 hours a day. Broadcasts are in Tongan
and English, with relays from the BBC, Radio Australia
and Radio New Zealand. Interestingly, the station
is not financed by license fees or through the state
budget, but by advertising revenue and profits from
a retail radio shop, which is owned by the TBC!
A3Z was established in 1960 to
provide a link connecting the people of the different
remote islands. Even after the arrival of telephone,
linking the people is still a primary function.
Broadcast time is given to various churches, community
and civic organizations, as A3Z is the only station
that covers the entire nation - and, as it seems,
occasionally reaches much beyond!
(published on September