This is the International Section of
The Broadcast Archive

Maintained by:
Barry Mishkind - The Eclectic Engineer
Updated: 10/6/02

New Zealand Broadcasting:

  • History
  • Regulation
  • Station Identifications

New Zealand Broadcast History:

In 1919, the radio station now called Radio Dunedin (4XD) started broadcasting in Dunedin, New Zealand when founder "Toots" Mitchell was presented with a triode amplifying tube by his engineer friend Edward Meinung. The opening song was "Robin Adair," sung by Mitchell's girlfriend at the microphone while Meining pedaled his bike the three kilometres from the sending station to his house where he had built a receiver. (Philip Crookes interviewed Mitchell in 1965.) 

They broadcast intermittently until 1921, then started regular scheduled programming two days a week. Those broadcasts led to the start of the Otago Radio Association, which was founded and started regular broadcasting thru the already existing station in 1923. 4XD is still there, broadcasting on 1305 kHz under the slogan "We were here first." 

... OR ...

The first station in New Zealand was built by Professor Robert Jack at Otago University in Dunedin. The small transmitter was imported from England and activated November 17th 1921. The only known fact about the programme’s content is that it included the then popular song "Hello My Dearie."

The first set of Broadcasting regulations were issued in 1923, under the Post and Telegraph Act of 1920. The country is divided into four regions. Receiving set owners were to pay an annual license of five shillings; transmission licenses cost two pounds.

In 1925 The Radio Broadcasting Company (RBC) begins operating after reaching an agreement with the government to begin a national broadcasting system. The company succeeds a number of separate stations (1YA, 2YK, 3AQ, 4YA) which the government has been paying a subsidy of 15 pounds a week.

1927-1929: The RBC starts setting up relay stations in provincial towns and country districts to counter its metropolitan bias. The provincial areas were wholly dependant on the privately owned and poorly financed “B” stations which struggled to survive until becoming a political issue in 1935.

1931: After being bombarded by over hundreds letters full of new ideas for the station, the RBC’s 2YA in Wellington employs a Mrs Maude Basham who later becomes known as "Aunt Daisy." She is dismissed months later due to a governmental instruction that only men are to be employed during the depression.

In 1932 the RBC’s assets were acquired by the New Zealand Broadcasting Board (NZBB), which was put in charge of New Zealand’s broadcasting services. The Board’s 4 year term was largely regarded as a stop gap measure before eventual nationalisation.

1934: Controversy plagues the NZBB.  The Board bans the broadcast of a talk by Indian philosopher Jidda Krishnamurti for being “too objectionable” and George Bernard Shaw broadcasts his pro-Communist views to a scandalised and unsuspecting audience.  The Board also incenses listeners by purchasing private “B” stations and closing them down.

1935: 1ZB is sold for 50 Pounds. 

1936: A newly elected New Zealand Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage dismantled the NZBB and the National Broadcasting Service (NBS) was established as a separate government department. Auckland’s 1ZB is bought and opened as the first station of the government owned National Commercial Broadcasting Service (NCBS). Aunt Daisy is re-employed by the station to broadcast her famous morning show nationwide.

1944: 1ZM, Auckland (a private station originally licensed in 1930 W.W. Rodgers in Manurewa a suburb of Auckland, hence the letter M) is loaned to the visiting US Army. After its stint in US hands it reverted to being a city station, and in 1948 was re-named 1YD Auckland. 

1948: A number of local stations were absorbed into the NZBS under a frequency plan.

1953: TV experiments started with an exhibition of color tv at the Auckland A & P Show. Later two stations were licensed: 1XXB at Bell Radio TV Corp in Dominion Road, and 1XXR at the then Seddon Memorial Tech College (now Auckland Technical University). Both broadcast on the 405 line system. When TV finally started late in the 50s it broadcast on the PAL 625 system and the experimental stations were taken off the air. (PC)

In 1982 FM Stereo transmission were being tested. 1XX in Whakatane ran the first of many short-term summer stations and this station was the 1st licensed FM Stereo Radio station in New Zealand - FM 90.7. The station went on air at 4pm on January 5, 1982.

Stay tuned for more!


Early regulation of broadcasting: A set of Broadcasting regulations are issued in 1923 under the Post And Telegraph Act 1920. Under the new regulations the country is divided into four numerical transmission regions. The regulations also stipulate that the owner of a receiving set is to pay an annual license of five shillings while permission to transmit costs two pounds.

In 1936 the newly elected New Zealand Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage announces his commitment to broadcasting; the National Broadcasting Service (NBS) is established as a separate government department.

In 1962 control passed from the government department New Zealand Broadcasting Service (NZBS) to an independent body - the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC).

1976: The NZBC becomes the Broadcasting Corporation Of New Zealand (BCNZ), the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) and the company which would become Television New Zealand (TVNZ).

The current regulatory body is the

Station Identification:

Each of four regions is identified by a leading number. 

  • 1 = North Island as far south as the Bay of Plenty.
  • 2 = the rest of North Island & Nelson province in the South Island
  • 3 = South island down to Timaru
  • 4 = the rest of South Island
  • 5 = Antartica and mobile radio

Originally "A" stations had a second letter - Y; B stations had a second letter Z. Later all private stations were given second letter X. Networks were identified by call letters: -YA were 'serious' national talk radio, -YC were concert (classical) program) -YD were city stations, usually broadcasting from 5 pm thru 11 pm.

ZA & ZB were city commercial stations, networking for major programs like Aunt Daisy, Des Britton's Top Ten, the LIfebuoy Hit Parade & a quiz show hosted by Selwyn Toogood. Colin Scrimgeour at 1ZB was involved with an evangelical religious movement called The Friendly Road, which also made proselytizing movies and ran a 'house truck' (a peculiarly NZ phenomenon where a large truck is turned into a self-propelled mobile home) around Auckland Province. Well into the 60s morning broadcasts on 1ZB gave way at to the Friendly Road Hour, during which a preacher called Uncle Tom would baptise infants live on the air, deliver improving homilies & present live religious songs from the Sankey Singers.

The call sign system was dropped in the 1980s.

My thanks to Aaron Anderson and Philip Crookes for their help with this information. If you can add to it, please let us know.