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Part   2  3  4
FEATURE - MALTA'S MASTS & TOWERS - Part One
INTRODUCTION
By Mike Smith with additional information supplied by Major Tony Abela, Richard Harcourt and Mark Camilleri
STATIONS (as of Apr 2004) Frequencies Power Pol'n Site
RADIO (This lists all main stations. There are other
community stations on Malta and Gozo which cannot be
listed here.  All received except those marked *)
ENERGY RADIO (Birzebbuga community station)
Super One Radio (Gozo Relay)*
CAPITAL RADIO (Island wide station)
BAY RADIO (Island wide station)
RADIO BRONJA (PBS - Island wide station) ("MAGIC 91.7" (2011))
SUPER ONE RADIO (Island wide [Labour Party])
RADIO MALTA (PBS - Island wide station)
Radio 101 (Gozo Relay)*
RTK - Raju Ta' Kulhadd (Victoria Relay - Gozo)
RADIO KOTTONER (Cospicua community sta.)
XFM RADIO (Island wide station)
RADIO 101 (Island wide station[National Party])
A3 FM (Island wide station)
CALYPSO FM (Island wide station)
RTK - Raju Ta' Kulhadd (Island wide station)
CAMPUS FM (University - Island wide station)
FANTASY RADIO (Paola community station)*
SMASH RADIO (Island wide station)
CHRISTIAN LIGHT RADIO (Naxxar community)
TEN SIXTY SIX (PBS - Island wide station)
EDEN FM (Marsaxlokk community station)

RADIO MALTA (PBS - relay of 93.7 FM)

TELEVISION  (PAL System B)*
TELEVISION MALTA (PBS)*
COMMUNITY CHANNEL 12 (PBS)*
SUPER ONE TV (Labour Party)*
NET TV (National Party)*

* = Digital Switch Over (DSO) - All analogue television (then identified as TVM, Net TV, One and Smash TV) switched off on October 31st 2011.
From this date only digital terrestrial television is transmitted - five television stations on one digital multiplex using UHF channel 66  ( 834 MHz ):  http://www.dso.org.mt

TELEVISION (Digital Terrestrial - DVB-T : MPEG-2 coding)
Free To Air

Multiplex consisting of: TVM, Education 22, Favourite Channel, Net TV, ONE and Smash TV.
Two main transmitters, Naxxar & Portomaso, plus eleven supplementary transmitter sites.
Island wide single frequency network (S.F.N.)



OTHER
GO MOBILE - Mobile Phone Network
VODAFONE - Mobile Phone Network

Non Directional Radio Navigation Beacon LQA
(At Fort St Roco 2km East of Valletta)
Non Directional Radio Navigation Beacon MLT
(At Benghisa)
Non Directional Radio Navigation Beacon
(Kercem, Gozo)

[PBS = Public Broadcasting Services Ltd http://www.pbs.com.mt ]

KEY: Masts Used For FM Radio and Television:
G = Gharghur
L = L-Iklin



88.3 MHz  FM
88.3 MHz  FM
88.7 MHz  FM
89.7 MHz  FM
91.7 MHz  FM
92.7 MHz  FM
93.7 MHz  FM
95.5 MHz  FM
97.6 MHz  FM
98.0 MHz  FM
100.2 MHz FM
101.0 MHz FM
101.8 MHz FM
102.3 MHz FM
103.0 MHz FM
103.7 MHz FM
104.1 MHz FM
104.6 MHz FM
105.4 MHz FM
106.6 MHz FM
107.6 MHz FM

999 kHz AM /MW


Ch E10  VHF
Ch 12 (?) VHF
Ch 29 UHF
Ch ? UHF










UHF Channel 66  (834 MHz)
UHF Channel 66  (834 MHz)






GSM
GSM

416 kHz

395 kHz

320 kHz



Low Power
Low Power
2 kW
2 kW
2 kW
2 kW
5 kW
Low Power
2 kW
Low Power
2 kW
2 kW
2 kW
2 kW
2 kW
2 kW
Low Power
2 kW
Low Power
2 kW
Low Power

5 kW ?
see text

10 kW
10 kW
10 kW
? kW










? kW
? kW






-
-

0.1 kW

1.0 kW

0.1 kW



?
?
V
V
V
V
V
?
?
?
V
V
V
V
V
V
?
V
?
V
?

-


H
H
H
H










H
?






-
-

-

-

-







G
G
G




G


G




G


-


G
G
G
L










Naxxar
Portomaso






-
-

-

-

-
Part   2  3  4

The above list is not the usual way that station and mast information is presented, but I am unable to confirm which station comes from which mast in every case.  Instead I have presented a list of everything that I heard and saw and what frequencies were used (where known) and I have also indicated by letter which mast is used where this information is known.

Additional Help
I must thank Major Tony Abela, a Radar Engineer in Malta, for his help in clarifying some finer technical details.  Major Abela writes technical articles for the Malta Star online newspaper every Wednesday, so to read his articles visit the Malta Star website and go to the back issues section and choose a Wednesday issue then click on the Star Tech section on the lower right-hand column of the page to find details of his feature.  During March, April and May 2004 there are special articles about radio that are very well worth reading.


View from Mdina looking towards Gharghur, Naxxar and L-Iklin
Gharghur (Radio & TV)                  Naxxar (DTT plus Microwave & Monitoring)                       Iklin (Television)
View from Mdina looking towards north east towards Gharghur, Naxxar and L-Iklin

The photograph above shows a view from Mdina (pronounced Umdina) looking North-East across the island to Naxxar and St Georges.  There are 3 masts in this photograph, though they are extremely difficult to make out in this picture.  In the foreground of the photo, left of centre, is Malta's National Stadium.  To the far left of the photograph (East) and on the horizon is the main radio and television transmitting tower at Gharghur.  A couple of inches to the right (East) is the tower at Naxxar (Pronounced Nashar) that is used by Maltacom as a link station and for monitoring.  This can be seen above the centre of the National Stadium with the top just protruding above the horizon.  To the far right on the horizon is the new Hilton Hotel at St Georges, and a few centimetres to the left of this is the mast at L-Iklin, which is very unclear in this picture.  The L-Iklin mast appears to be used purely for UHF television broadcasting. 
 
Before we get to the main photographs of Masts and Towers on Malta here are a few more details for you to digest:

BRIEFLY:
Malta is a very small island located in the Mediterranean South of Italy, between Sicily and Libya, the population is around 400,000 with Valletta as the capital.  Malta has 4 terrestrial television channels and numerous radio stations and also The Melitia Cable  television service that provides around 57 channels.  The Maltese enjoy watching the Italian television stations, many of which are available off air using a high-gain UHF TV aerial directed towards Sicily & Italy.  Most houses boast several TV aerials, one of which is usually used to receive Italian TV.  The main TV and radio transmitters are located on high ground just to the West of Valletta.  The very highest land is actually to the South-West of Malta, but there are no broadcast TV or radio masts there.


MORE:
We visited Malta in April 2004 and enjoyed mixed weather some good sunny days with blue skies and a good breeze and a few overcast and very windy days.  I had not intended to photograph any masts in Malta, but the island is so small, about the size of the Isle Of Wight, that you cannot drive anywhere without seeing a mast or a tower!  I therefore just had to get the camera out and take a few photos on our various journeys.  I always seem to be very unfortunate when photographing masts and have to suffer grey skies as backgrounds - surprisingly Malta was no exception, the clouds must follow us wherever we go!  There are one or two pictures with nice blue skies but a few too many that are grey.  The higher than normal winds did not help the camera shake either.


Malta's radio and television services are co-ordinated and regulated by the Malta Broadcasting Authority which was established in 1961 as in independent statutory body appointed by the President of the Republic of Malta.  The public service radio and television stations are funded by licence fee and are provided by Public Broadcasting Services Ltd, who provide 2 TV stations and 3 radio stations, as marked in the table above. 

I was disappointed to read in the Malta Independent newspaper that PBS have been suffering some testing times.  Like other countries at the moment, the government of Malta does not appear to be fully supportive of the public service broadcasting being provided by the PBS radio and television company.   PBS employed less than 200 staff in total and, according to the newspaper, this is to be reduced to less than 70 due to on-going cut-backs.

The other two television stations and all the other radio stations are privately run.  Super One Television and Super One Radio being run by the Maltese Labour Party, while NET TV is run by the Maltese National Party.

The most popular of the numerous private independent radio stations is 89.7 Bay Radio which claims around 20% of the audience and fast paced pop/rock station.

English speaking visitors will no doubt be pleased to learn that Radio Malta (
93.7 FM & 999 AM) relays regular BBC World Service news bulletins and that Campus Radio (103.7 FM) broadcast whole blocks of BBC World Service output in the afternoons which was very useful.  However the BBC World Service was also quite well received on their usual shortwave frequencies in the 49, 31, 25 and 19 meter bands (6195, 9410, 12095, 15485 & 15565 kHz [April 2004]).

The Malta Communications Authority regulates the telephony services on the island and the providers of telephony services include Maltacom, Go Mobile and Vodafone.

Malta has a population of around 400,000 inhabitants who own (according the the World Radio and Television Handbook WRTH) approximately 100,000 radios and nearly 200,000 television sets.  About 70 percent of the island's income is derived from tourism with some supplemental by part time agriculture.  Many Maltese own small-holdings and after returning home from their full time job they will cultivate vegetable crops to sell.   Malta is self sufficient in potatoes, with some of its potato output being exported to The Netherlands or Denmark.  There is a brewery on Malta that produces Cisk beer, I am not a lager drinker, I prefer Real Ale, but the Cisk beer is quite delicious.

Out of interest, Malta's water supply comes from seven reverse-osmosis plants located around the coast that de-salinate the salt water of the Mediterranean making it suitable for domestic water supply.

But back to radio: 
It is astonishing to think that with so little major industry, other than tourism, and with such a small population that Malta is able to support 4 television channels and about 13 island wide radio stations, not to mention a number of very local community radio services!


A LITTLE RADIO HISTORY:
Previous to PBS,  XANDIR MALTA (a division of Telemalta Corporation) had operated radio and television on Malta as follows:
Radio Malta 1 : 999 kHz AM 20 kW ; 93.7 MHz FM 4 kW  (89.7 MHz FM was also listed)
Radio Malta 2 : 91.7 MHz FM 4 kW
Xandir television : Ch E/10 10 kW H PAL System B

Previous to the Xandir company, Malta Radio was operated by the BBC.

The 1973 edition of the Wireless World Guide To Broadcasting Stations listed Malta as having three medium wave transmitters which broadcast on 998 kHz , 1214 kHz (Radio Malta 1kW) and 1568 kHz.

In 1987 The Guide To Broadcasting Stations, by Philip Darrington, listed several medium wave and shortwave transmission sites:

Delimara: 756 KHz  20 kW
Use not confirmed - maybe Radio Malta 2 ?
Delimara: 999 Khz  20 kW
Radio Malta 1
Bugibba: 1485 KHz   1 kW
Use not confirmed - possibly local station or relay
Cyclops:

1557 KHz  75 / 600 kW DW & Radio Mediterranean (75 kW) & Voice Of The Mediterranean (600 kW)
Cyclops: Shortwave Broadcasting  250 kW Deutsche Welle Relay & Radio Mediterranean and Voice of the Mediterranean

There is no listing for the Delimara transmitter today (2004),  the transmissions of Radio Malta on 999 KHz having been moved to Bezbezija.  756 KHz is certainly inactive.  Delimara is a point on a peninsula just to the East of Marsaxlokk (pronounced Marshaslock) and the original medium wave transmitter was located here approximately 50 meters North of the lighthouse.

The transmission of Radio Malta continues on 999 Khz but at reduced power.  In 1987 the 999 Khz transmission was listed at 20 kW from Delimara, and in the WRTH of 1999 it is listed at 5 kW from Bezbezija.  When I monitored the station the signal had poor modulation depth (i.e. was very quiet compared to other transmissions on MW and Short Wave) and also seemed quite weak, so I would judge that it may today be of the order of only a few hundred Watts.  The station was quickly swamped by co-channel interference as dusk approached, even when only 5 km from the mast.

There is no medium wave mast in Bugibba so this must have been dismantled.

EXTERNAL AND SHORTWAVE BROADCASTING
There are no longer any external , short wave or foreign language broadcasts originating from Malta.

The German international short wave broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) built a medium wave transmitter and major shortwave relay station at Cyclops (G.C: 14:34E/35:51N) which entered service with regular broadcasts in 1971.  It carried 250 kW short wave transmitters and a high power 600 kW medium wave transmitter on 1557 kHz.  The Cyclops site was at Xorb I-Ghagin Point (known as il Hofra I-kbira)  which is  between Delimara Point and St Thomas Bay.  DW built some of the largest masts on the island, the shortwave aerial consisted of curtain antennas supported by three 300 ft structures.  There were also a number of MF mast radiators and vertical and horizontal log-periodic antennas.  DW used this facility until 1996 when transmissions were discontinued.

The Cyclops transmitters were also used by Radio Mediterranean on 1557 kHz MW and 6110 Khz shortwave.  This station was based at P.O. Box 2 Valetta and produced programmes in French, English and Arabic.  This service has now ceased.

The radio station VOICE OF THE MEDITERRANEAN (VOM) was established in 1984 and was a joint venture between the governments of Malta and Libya to promote the Mediterranean culture, unity and peace in the region.   The station also used the Cyclops transmissions site and broadcast in English having a postal address of P.O. Box 143 Valletta.  When the DW transmitter site was closed down, The Voice Of The Mediterranean continued to broadcast on shortwave via transmitter time hired from Russia.  The frequencies used during 1999 were 9765, 9810, 12060, 13605, 15550 and 17570 kHz.   Unfortunately the station was forced to close by the Maltese Ministry Of Foreign Affairs on December 31st 2003 because Libya had defaulted on its share of the payments and eventually owed the government of Malta approximately Lm1 million (£1.6 million).

The Cyclops shortwave transmission site at
Xorb I-Ghagin Point (G.C: 14:34E/35:51N) was completely dismantled around 1999, as was required by the contract signed between DW and the government of Malta - nothing was to remain once the site was no longer to be used for broadcasting.

Interestingly the Maltacom Benghisa Transmission Station is not far away, being just across Marsaxlokk Bay near Brizebbuga.   There are several other sites around the island that sport a multitude of masts and towers that give the appearance of shortwave or transmission sites of some kind, at least one of which (Siggiewi) looks completely disused and this turned out to be an ex-Navy receiving station.  Some radio facilities on the islands date back to when the British forces¹ had a presence in Malta and have since fallen into disrepair others have been dismantled and removed.   There are more details below.

¹Malta had been under British rule for nearly 200 years, but gained independence on 21st September 1964.  In 1979 Malta became a republic and so the British forces departed the island that same year.

BEACONS:
There are three NDB's
(Non Directional Beacons) in Malta and while there I confirmed reception of two of them; one on 395 kHz and the other on 416 kHz.  395 kHz was weaker of the two at our location in Qawra and while my Morse Code is not very good, it appears to send out the morse code signal  _ _    . _ . .   _  which is spells out the letters MLT.  The 416 kHz beacon was stronger in Qawra and was seemed to be strongest around the Valletta area, with some direction finding I thought that the most likely source of the beacon was a pair of towers at Fort St Rocco, an ex British Army base.  These two towers had a T aerial strung between them, but we were on a coach trip at the time and did not get close enough to either get a positive fix or a photograph. 

The Morse Code signal on this 416 kHz beacon was . _ . .    _ _ . _   . _  which decodes as LQA.  LQA is from Luqa Airport, and this confirms that this is an aeronautical beacon.  Since our visit it
has been confirmed that Fort St Rocco is the correct location and that the beacon consists of a pair of 94 ft high wooden towers that support a T aerial, which is exactly what I saw.

The other locations where beacons (NDB's) are sited are confirmed to be at the Maltacom Benghisa Transmitting Station, which uses an "Inverted L" aerial, and at Kercem on the island of Gozo which uses a 'T' aerial that is supported by two 45ft steel towers.

THE LOCATIONS:
Below is a map of Malta detailing the transmitter sites that are featured in the photographs on these pages:

Map of Malta identifying transmitting sites
Map of Malta identifying transmitting sites
Map By HRW ATLAS go.hrw.com

To check the name and function of the mast marked on the map above, cross check the number with the table below.  The mast name given is either the actual site name or name of nearest town (*).

REF No.
MAST
NOTES
1
GHARGHUR Main Radio and Television Tower for Malta
2
NAXXAR *
Tower used by the MaltaCom monitoring and link station, located near the town of Naxxar
3
L-IKLIN
Tower used by UHF television (near Ta' Raddiena)
4
MADLIENA 2 towers, once used by navigation.  Currently one of the towers is a cable head end and is used by Melitia Cable evidenced by the preponderance of UHF yagis pointed towards Italy.
5
BEZBEZIJA
Medium Wave mast radiator used by Radio Malta 999 kHz
6
GHALLIS
LF Mast radiator used by DATATRAK.  
7
MTARFA
Tower: Used by MaltaCom Radio Link.
Second tower apparently unused and probably unrelated.
8
DINGLI RADAR
4 Towers and Radar "Golf Ball".  Malta Air Traffic Services Limited Navigational Transmitting Site.
9
DINGLI BOOSTER
Several guyed masts.  Near Rabat.  Disused.
10
GHEMIERI * (Bahrija)
Many towers and masts.  Appearance of a disused shortwave station with cables and wires broken and dangling from insulators.
11
BENGHISA
Many Towers and masts.  The Maltacom BENGHISA  TRANSMITTING STATION.  Used by air traffic control.  Site of Non Directional Radio Navigation Beacon amongst other things.
12
SIGGIEWI *
Ex RAF Signals Unit - closed 1978.  Many Towers located near Tas Salvatur.  Now used as a police monitoring station.
visit: http://www.raf-siggiewi-malta.com
13
FORT ST ROCCO
Two 94ft wooden towers with a T aerial strung between.  Used for the 416 KHz Radio Navigation Beacon LQA. 
(Not Photographed).  2km East of Valletta

Malta's Digital Television Transmitters - Map
Map of Malta's Digital Television Transmitters in 2011
More Information at   -   http://www.dso.org.mt


GHARGHUR main radio and television tower
GHARGHUR main radio and television tower

GHARGHUR main radio and television tower
GHARGHUR main radio and television tower

MORE PHOTOGRAPHS >>

MORE ABOUT THE SITES AND STRUCTURES (Courtesy Major Tony Abela)

GHARGHUR:  The tower at Gharghur was originally built by NATO and called "High Ace" and was used as a radio link to Sigonella.  In the late 1960s the Malta Government took over the site and used it to transmit the only television station at the time, Xandir Television which is now known as PBS.  Radio Malta, also part of PBS,  now has its FM radio transmitters sited here.  Broadcasting was liberalised in the 1990s and other stations have located their transmitters at Gharghur including Super One Televison and Super One Radio, RTK the Catholic radio station, and Radio 101 the National Party radio station.

L-IKLIN:  The tower at L-Iklin is used by NET-TV, which is the National Party television station.  This is a more recent television station and had to be sited at I-Iklin as there was no room remaining on the Gharghur tower to site their antennas.

BENGHISA:  The Benghisa Transmitting Station is a major site and is still active and operated by Maltacom.   It was originally the RAF HF transmitting station and was home to various antennas including Rhombics to the UK, Cyprus and Gibraltar; Delta Y's; Marconi 1/4 waves; Sloping V and Log Periodics. 

The station closed in 1978 and was taken over by the Department of Civil Aviation who continued to look after the aeronautical operations.  Most of the point to point equipment became redundant except for those to Tripoli and Benghazi.  There were also omni-directional ground to air HF R/T communications and search and rescue services there. 
The Tele Malta HF ship to shore station was also co-located here in the mid 1970s, but this and DCA are now closed and only the Non Directional Beacon on 395 kHz is still active and unmanned.

Today Benghisha is operated by Maltacom and is primarily for Maritime use, that is, communication with shipping
on low frequencies (2182KHz Emergency Frequency, 2625 Working Frequency) As well as Navtex transmission on 516.8KHz.  This station also has other services, mainly mobile phone companies ( GoMobile, Vodafone and Telepage) making use of the 63m and 46m towers.

GHALLIS: This is a slimline guyed mast about 1 km east at Ghallis which is used by DATATRAK and is a low frequency (LF) surveillance system jointly operated by TeleMalta and a British company.

MADLIENA:  Currently two masts one of which is a cable head end for Melitia Cable receiving television off the air from Italy and the other is used by the emergency services.  Previously this site was an RAF radar station consisted of Type 80, Type 13 and Type 14 radars.  There were two 94ft high wooden towers for VHF and UHF ground to air communications.  The radar station closed in 1973.

DINGLI BOOSTER:  Now disused, but this was used by the Naval Civil Monitoring Special Unit, a top secret monitoring operation.

GHEMIERI / BAHRIJA: Former Army Receiving station vacated in 1979 to be used by Department of Civil Aviation as an HF receiving station, which has now closed.
 
LUQA AIRPORT:  There are two ILS systems, Met radar, Approach radar and an HF mast at Luqa Airport.

ZEBBUG: There are remains of an ex Naval receiving station at San Blast, Zebbug.  I did not spot these remains on our journeys around the island however.

IMELLA: There was a Naval transmitting station at Imella where there was a 500 ft high longwave (LF) mast radiator, the tallest on the island, which was used until the early 1960's.

SIGGIEWI / TA KANDIA: This was the RAF 840 Signals Unit and was the RAF communications centre and HF receiving station until 1978.  It is now used as a police monitoring station and as a retention centre for illegal immigrants.

Dave Bawden asks for some help: "Good day Mike, My name is David Bawden (Dave) and I am a retired Canadian, but many years ago I was attached to RAF Siggiewi (840 Signals Unit) as an HF/DF operator. I am looking for any old photo’s of the HF/DF shack that was located a short walk from the base of RAF Siggiewi on my web page RAF_Siggiewi_Malta.html  and here http://www.raf-siggiewi-malta.com/  Obviously nothing shows on Google Earth after all of this time, but I wondered if someone may have photo’s or information on its former location?

I am going to have to spend time and sort through the thousands of photo’s I have from my days in the service and hope something shows up. The problem is that at the time you were posted to a station, you really didn’t want photo’s of it because you were there all the time. Now is when hindsight comes into play and you WISH you had taken some.

I appreciate your link and hopefully there will be someone out there who has something. Interesting site. Cheers. Dave B"
  February 2012


ZONCUOR POINT: Zoncuor Point (maybe known as Zoncor or Zonkor), not marked on the map but near Marsaskala (North East of the island), was home to the Royal Signals  transmitting station but this has been removed and nothing is left.  Richard Harcourt kindly e-mailed us to further explain: 

"The Zonquor Transmitter Station was built by the REME and Royal Signals but was a RAF Transmitter station, It was the transmitter station for RAF Siggiewi 840 Signals Unit to form part of the upgraded DCN (Defence Communications Network). It was to take over from Kalafrana and Benhaisa but never went operational due to the initial pull-out of British Forces following the election of the Mintoff Government in 1971. All the equipment was physically removed and airlifted by helicopters from HMS London then anchored in Grand Harbour. The equipment was taken straight to RAF Luqa where it was loaded onto RAF Transport Command Hercules and Belfast aircraft and taken off the island within 24 hours."
 
Richard was "a Sgt in charge of "D" Watch at 840 SU Siggiewi and then went to Zonquor when we took over from the army. The equipment was tested and calibrated and due to go on the air just before Christmas 1971, I persuaded DCN that we should just hold a fire watch over the Christmas period and actually go on the air at 0001hrs on Jan 1st 1972. On Christmas day morning whilst I was holding the fire watch at Zonquor the BBC announced the pull-out of British Forces from Malta, and the rest is history."

MORE PHOTOGRAPHS >>

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