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Radio Station TGNA in Guatemala

By James Smallwood

This article was originally published in the May 1979 issue (pages 2-4) of FRENDX, now The Journal of the North American Shortwave Association. It appears here with permission of NASWA.


Radio station TGNA is one of two of Guatemala's more popular sitations on the shortwave bands which broadcast from Guatemala City, the nation's capital. The other, if you have not guessed already, is "La Voz del Pueblo", the national radio station operated by the Guatemalan government. In this article, I will attempt to tell you, the readers of Shortwave Center, a good bit of information about the former of the two stations, Radio TGNA.

Radio TGNA is one of the three religiously-oriented, or if you prefer, "missionary" radio stations broadcasting in Central America on shortwave at the present time. It is also known as a cultural radio station due to its cultural and educational programming, which includes bulletins of news, programs of secular and folk music, as well as scientific programs, some of which are carried in cooperation with the country's government.

This station operates as a great many other missionary radio stations (such as HCJB in Quito, Ecuador) do, this is on a strictly non-commercial basis, depending of gifts form interested listeners outside as well as inside of Guatemala. Radio TGNA was founded in August of 1950 by Mr. Harold Van Broekhaven of the Central American Mission (now known as CAM International) located in Dallas, Texas. The station was founded for the purpose of reaching the people of Central America and the Caribbean with the Gospel through radio, and now, 29 years later, the station still fulfills this purpose.

In more recent years, the station's ministry and operation has increased, for now, Radio TGNA is on the air for 21 hours a day. Most of the broadcast day is concentrated on the Station's local Spanish-speaking audience (for 19k hours a day). The remainder of the broadcast day is divided between the English-speaking audiences (1 1/2 hours a day), and also to listeners of the three principal Indian dialects of Guatemala: These are Cackchiquel, Mam, and Kekchi (30 minuites a day).

Radio TGNA can be heard in Guatemala City and the local surrounding areas on AM and FM, while their shortwave frequencies cover all of Guatemala, southern Mexico, all of the rest of Central America and the Caribbean area, as well as parts of the southern United States. More distant reception is possible depending on propagation conditions. The station broadcasts with 10 kW of power on AM and SW, while their FM outlet is on air with 0.25 W, On the mediumwave (AM) band they broadcast as TGN on 730 kHz; as TGN-FM on 100.8 MHz stereo, and on shortwave, the station broadcasts as TGNC on 3300 kHz, 90 metres, and as TGNA on 5955 kHz in the 49 metre band. At one time the station had yet a third shortwave frequency of 9505 kHz, 31 metres, but since then its 0.5 kW transmitter, due to technical and interference problems, is now out of service and has been so for quite some time.

The station is known by the above-mentioned call letters, but it is more commonly known by the slogan, "Radio Cultural", or else by their general name, Radio TGNA. It has been on the air currently from Monday to Saturday between 1100 and 0830 GMT, and also on the air Sunday from 1200 to 0830 GMT. The serious DXer can hear any one of Radio TGNA's shortwave frequencies, even with the simplest of radio receivers and antennas, usually when it signs on at 1100 GMT. If that is too early for you, then TGNA comes in with an excellent to good signal in the early and late evenings between 0000 and the 0830 GMT signoff. Radio TGNA is on the air in English from 0300 to 0430 GMT with its two daily religious programs, "Back to the Bible" and "Through the Bible" (each on for 30 minutes) between 0300 and 0400 GMT. This is really the best time for peak North American reception of the 90 metre band outlet. On 5955 kHz, later in the evening hours, after TGNA's English program portion has concluded, there is a late-night program featuring secular music between 0430 and 0830 GMT.

The studios of Radio TGNA are located on the first floor of a two story building that was built in 1974, on the 4th Avenue, 30-09, Zone 3, which is approximately in the middle of Guatemala City. The main floor contains two studios, an on-the-air control room, an automatic programmer room, a transmitter room, and repair shop, as well as reception andy counseling areas, offices for the radio-pastor and assistant manager, and tape and record library. It has been said that this library is the most complete classical music librar, in Guatemala. Eighty percent of Radio TGNA's programs are recorded to assure their high quality.

The first studio is conviently equipped to produce high quality stereo recordings with participation of large groups of people. It is built adequately for recording of.videotapes, although the station does not have the equipment for this purpose, some video-taping has been done, however, with rented equipment. The studio's array of musical i nstruments include a Yamaha Grand Piano. an organ, a vibra-harp, and a marimba (this being the national instrument of Guatemala). The studio also has a professional stereo Ampex recorder and two turntables; the console was designed and built at the station.

The second studio, however, is much smaller--it is monaural, used for recording small groups, containing two pianos (one small, the other large), some Ampex equipment and some home-built equipment. The on-the-air control room has a Collins console and 4 Viking stereo playbacks, along with two turntables, two cartridge, and one cassette playbacks, console, etc. The console and some of this equipment is home-built, and the control room can be moved to any of the other recording rooms for special occasions, live recordings, and remote control.

The automatic programmer room is just an extension of the above-mentioned on-the-air control room. The automatic programmer itself is also homebuilt. It has 5 stereo reel tape playbacks, including 4 Telex 230s and 1 cartridge playback. It is used 8 hours a day in different blocks, and is also capable of 4 consecutive hours of unattended operation. The transmitter room contains the home-built 250 watt FM transmitter which also serves as the link with the main transmitter site. It also has a communications system for remote control and a link system to join with the central government station (Radio Nacional de Guatemala, which was briefly mentioned at the beginning of this article) for special broadcast and also as stand-by equipment. All of these are home-built, There is also a shop, equipped for designing, building, testing, and repairing of equipment. Also there is an airconditioning room, restrooms, and a small storage room for various uses.

The building's second floor houses TGNA's offices. There is a reception area, offices for the station manager and secretary, a counseling room, and an enormous conference room which has a capacity for 80 people. They also have an accounting office, a filing office, a literacy and program traffic office, a surveys and publications office, and a small counseling office as well as the Bible correspondence courses office. They have a mailing room, a store-room, a restroom, a small room for the night caretaker, and an equipment room. Last, but not certainly least, they have a room for the departmental director, a room currently vacant because they have no,one to fill this position at the moment.

On top of the building the station has their 120 foot transmitter tower which has four FM circular antennas, with 8,000 watts ERP covering a radius of 30 kilometres, including Guatemala City itself and the surrounding areas. Also on the roof , there are three teletype reception antennas, some ham band antennas, and some special communications antennas.

As to its transmitter site, Radio TGNA has it located in the nearby town of San Miguel Petapa, about 20 km.south of Guatemala City. This transmitter site has an area of approximately eight acres. The small one-story building at this site contains the 10 kW AM transmitter, a second 10 kW transmitter for the stations 90 metre band outlet, and a 0.5 kW transmitter for 49 metres. The building also includes some equipment for the link reception, control,and monitoring, as well as a storage room and a room for the caretaker. They have a 320 foot tall transmitter tower for AM (.1-4-wave), and two 100 foot high towers which are used to support the 49 and 90 metre band antennas.

The station is currently in the process of getting authorization from the government to move its transmitter site from their current location at Petapa to a mountain which faces Guatemala City. But at the same time, TGNA is in an exhaustive search for land, and there are two other possibilities at this time, but these are beyond their control at the moment.

Before I finish up my article, here is some advice which all DXers should be familiar with when it comes to radio stations such as TGNA, Radio Cultrual. That is, send them a reception report. They gratefully wish for reports on their signal and especially how well it is heard here in the United States. If these reports are correct in their details as to programming and the quality of reception, the station will verify with a QSL card. Send your reports in English to either one of the following station personell. Mr. Oscar Lopez, the station manager (I would recommend him very highly), and Mr. Wayne Berger, the chief Engineer (who incidentally built the transmitters and most of the equipment used at the station). Return postage in the form of Guatemalan mint stamps or one or two IRCs would be extremely helpful, for the mail situation in Guatemala does not fare too well these days.

The Radio TGNA QSL card is a white postcard which depicts the Quetzal bird, the national bird of Guatemala, perched upon a microphone with the large letters TGNA at right along with general information on the front and back of the card. The Quetzal bird. by the way, does not survive when it is in captivity, hence it is the nation's symbol of liberty.

Before I conclude, I'd like to express my appreciation to two people without whose help this article would not be possible. Mr. Oscar Lopez helped me a great deal in regard to eneral information about the station and how it is run. And also Mr. Donald Rutledge former TGNA station manager) of CAM International in Dallas, who helped me to become interested in Radio TGNA.


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