Friday, November 13, 2015

Sud Radio Pic Blanc

At one time, the Sud Radio tower site at Pic Blanc was the highest medium-wave transmitter site in all of Europe. It sat atop a mountain in the tiny nation of Andorra. It broadcast on 813 kHz with 900 kW, directional.That location was part of their branding, even represented in their logo. The word "Sud" is French for South, Southerly or Southern.

French? Oh yes, very French. Andorra is the sixth-smallest nation in Europe. It's land-locked and sits on the Southern French border. Sud Radio was founded in 1958. But the corporation Andora Radio S.A. was founded in 1951, and it was 51% owned by Societe Financiere de Radiodiffusion or SOFIRAD, a French organization which managed its international broadcasting efforts. They had different tools other than the licensing game to advancing French priorities into broadcasting. They had some control over broadcast hardware sales and training programs, programming assistance, and low-interest loans. But that might be where things went wrong.

In 1961 SOFIRAD bought Radio des Vallées d'Andorre which broadcast on 701 kHz with 280 kW in Spanish but by 1966 it became a second signal for Sud radio. In 1983 the Journal of Communication published the following comments on Sud Radio "Sud Radio, a wholly SOFIRAD-owned company in Andorra is SOFIRAD's biggest problem because it has become both a financial and political liability."

What happened? Both stations had to shut down by decision of the Andorran Parliament in 1981. Why is nebulous. Even when the station was new, in June of 1953 a spat led France to close the Andorra border for 6 months. So when they got the license form Andorra it wasn't permanent. The "Council of the Valleys" issued a broadcast license on March 29, 1961 for 20 years. The Co-Princes of Andorra were probably fighting over it at the time. (Google it) Regardless Sud was losing money so their interesting in fighting through a renewal was probably limited.

Sud Radio was off air for over a year but survived and re-centered it's operation from a signal in Toulouse on 819 kHz at 20 kW. In March 1986, Sud Radio got permission to transmit on the FM band. In 2001they gained new frequencies in the regions Auvergne and Limousin. By 2010 they were also broadcasting from Clermont-Ferrand and Limoges. I think that works out to a total of 29 "regions" within France but still no return to south of France.

The remnants of that Pic Blanctower site is view-able from the Grandvalira Ski Resort. Skiers can pass very near tot he towers despite the high power. But today only one tower is still standing. The other is partly deconstructed. The site was decommissioned in 1981.(How Andorra got it's own country and the Basque didn't I may never understand.)