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Sani Radio

In 1987 and 2001

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Part 1 - 1987: This next letter was originally published in the January 1987 issue of FRENDX, now The Journal of the North American Shortwave Association. It appears here with permission of NASWA.

Finally, a nice letter from Log Report Distributing Editor John Henault (Abington, Massachusetts). He enclosed a letter from "SANI RADIO" which acknowledges a reception report from Harold Levison. Writes John: 1 especially liked the writer's comments about station personnel using the transmitter for'personal use' after regular transmission hours end." Here then is the lerter, which gives some interesting insights into SW broadcasting:

Our frequency is 4755kHz, as licensed with the government of Honduras at geographical coordinates of 15 degrees and 16 minutes north and 83 degrees 46 mínutes west in the town of Puerto Lempira, Gracias a Dios. Our call letters are HRRI and we are called "SANI RADIO" (which some listeners have confused as Family Radio"). Our administrative and operations center is in the coastal town of La Ceiba, Honduras.

Puerto Lempira, with a population of some 2,000 and, La Ceiba, with a population of around 60,000 are the departmental capitals of Gracias a Dios and Atlántida. The name Sani comes from a Miskito Indian word for the "majao" vine, which is native to the area and is an important source of string. Many years ago, the children of the area invented a game to imitate the missionary radio services whereby they made their own "radios" by connecting two dried coconut halves with a stretched piece of sani string. These were the fírst "sani radios" and since then the phrase has evolved into a slang expression for oral transmission of information like the English expression of "through the grapevine."

Our purpose is to provide bilingual (Spanish/Miskito) educational and public service broadcasts to the Miskito Indian population of the area. Our transmitter is a Sintronic SI-A-10 with 1okW of power and we use a simple 30 meter long dipole antenna at a height of 15 meters which is probably around 20 meters ahove sea level.

Presently, we are financed by funds from the United States Agency for International Development. The Interational Rescue Committee was founded in 1933 during the rise of facsism in Germany. Since then, the IRC has been dedicated to assisting refugee and needy populatíons through educational and health programs around the world.

The grand opening of "Sani Radio" was on August 25, 1986 which went over very well, was broadcast live, and attended by more that 200 local persons, as well as guesis from the Honduran Ministry of Education, Ministry of the Interior, and the United States AID mission.

Over the next year we hope to comniercialize the station to some extent in order to cover basic operational costs as well as possibly to enter into a cooperative agreement for national educational broadcasting and will seek funding from private and public sectors both nationally and intemationally. We are expressly prohibited from transmitting partisan political or religious programs. Our programming will be in Spanish, Miskito, and Sumo languages and initially will cover cultural, informative, and entertainment programs which will evolve rapid1y to include extensive bilingual primary and adult education programs. The target audience for the educational programs will primarily be from refugee settlements incorporating some 40 village study centers in remote areas, each being supplied with a radio, battery, solar panel, nails, blackboard, and student supplies.

We presently have a large staff of some 30 persons including educational script writers, producers, announcers, studio operators, and administrative personnel. Occasionally we have English transmissions in the evenings after normal sign-off which gives myself and technical staff as well as friends the chance to enjoy radio broadcasting and tell about our project. Our hours of transmission in indigenous languages will be from 0600 to 1000, and 1600 to 2000 local Honduran time. Every Thursday evening from 1800 to 1900 we read intemational letters over the air. To date we have received letters from New Zealand, USA, Norway, England, Wales, Scotland, Hungary, Panama, Australia, Spain, France, Holland, India, Japan, Italy, El Salvador, and Luxemburg.

--- Thank you once again [signed), Edward A. Pfister, Program Manager for Operations, International Rescue Committee

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Part 2 - 2001: The following information appeared in issues 352 and 353 of Cumbre DX.

HONDURAS A Report On SANI Radio by Larry Baysinger.

When seen from a distance the tower seemed to be leaning. Closer inspection revealed that not only was the tower leaning - but various sections were leaning in different directions !

My partner David Daniell and I had chanced upon the remains of this mysterious station while returning to Puerto Lempira, Honduras after having completed an inspection tour of the low powered shortwave station - HRET - at nearby Campo Bautista.

David is the Media Consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and I am a retired broadcast engineer serving as a volunteer.

The faded lettering on the concrete wall adjacent to the entrance said " AVANCE SANI RADIO 4755 kHz ", the lettering on the front of the camper-trailer said "Estudios Sani Radio", and the sign on the door of an abandoned jeep said "AVANCE" . We had found SANI Radio - but no one was home ! In fact, from the look of the vandalized and overgrown facilities, they had turned off the lights, locked the door, and walked away quite some time ago.

Now comes the "mysterious" part - as late as the 2000 issue of the World Radio and TV Handbook, SANI Radio is listed as operating on 6300 kHz at 1 kilowatt. Earlier issues had also listed 4755 kHz at 10 kilowatts. But, according to locals, HRRI SANI Radio operated in the mediumwave band and broadcast propaganda.

It turns out that in the late 1970's or early 1980's the "U.S. Agency for International Development" launched the powerful station - but then in the early 1990's transferred control to a Honduran government agency called "Avance", which soon went broke and ceased operations in 1994.

A peek into the transmitter building revealed the partially dismantled remains of a 10 kW mediumwave AM transmitter ( the nameplate had been removed but it looks like an early Sparta model 710 ) and what looked like a small, "homebrewed" shortwave transmitter - perhaps a one kW model.

Following the three-inch diameter coaxial transmission line from the the 10 kW transmitter out to the base of the 300-foot tower, we found a Kintronics MW band antenna tuning unit and the partially exposed ground radial system.

Another piece of 3-inch line ran from the building to one of two short towers which stood on opposite sides of the building. The top two sections of this tower had been removed and were laying on the ground nearby and the transmission line had been cut off. There was no indication as to what kind of antenna these had supported but it could very well have been some sort of shortwave array.

While we were there, the owner of the property came by and offered to sell us the whole mess for $17,000 U.S. - the amount of unpaid rent he says is owed him by some un-named U.S. Government agency ! May 2001 - Larry Baysinger

HONDURAS Sani Radio - Following up on Larry Baysinger's interesting account on Honduran station Sani Radio: According to an account I found on the Internet, it was set up by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in 1984 as part of a non-lethal aid package to the Nicaraguan Contras. Its original purpose was to support the refugee community, broadcasting in Miskito. The USAID hired Tom Keogh, a native Bostonian who had married a Honduran woman and lived in Puerto Lempira, to run it. With a budget of US$900,000, Keogh built the 10kW station and had complete control over programming. He later converted to Christianity and switched the focus of SANI onto religion. For more:
http://www.links.net/vita/trip/hondo/mosquitia/lempira/tom/saniradio.html (Grace Jun 24)

The station was not on the air yet in 1984, while I was still in Honduras. In May 1986, I reported to various DX publications that I had heard from a Peace Corps friend in the Honduran Mosquitia that US AID was funding a station to be run by the "International Rescue Committee" and that the station was expected to be on the air soon. From some quick research, it looks like the first reported log was on July 16 1986 by Kirk Allen in Oklahoma. While their studios and transmitters were in the Mosquitia, the I.R.C. had offices in Tegucigalpa, which I visited during a quick stopover in Tegus in May, 1990. They were about a block from the U.S. Embassy in a very nice house. In the 1980s, US AID was used to channel funds to various organizations the CIA supported. I would make a guess that the switch to religion took place after the Sandinistas lost the 1990 election in Nicaragua, as most of that money dried up then (For example, Radio Impacto went off the air shortly afterwards.) (Don Moore)

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This website is maintained by Don Moore,
Association of North American Radio Clubs
DXer of the Year for 1995
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