There have been a number of significant dates affecting NZ MW stations and therefore DXers, in New Zealand.
1919: the first experimental radio station started broadcasting in Dunedin, New Zealand when founder “Toots” Mitchell was presented with a triode amplifying tube by his engineer friend Edward Meining. The opening song was “Robin Adair,” sung by Mitchell’s girlfriend at the microphone while Meining pedalled his bike the three kilometres from the sending station to his house where he had built a receiver. The station later became 4XD. 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. 4XD is still broadcasting, now on 1305 kHz and 99.2MHz often using the slogan “We were here first.”
1921: The first institutional radio 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 first song played was “Hello My Dearie”.
1922: 4XD in Dunedin commenced broadcasting on the 4th of October, becoming New Zealand’s first licenced radio station and 5th in the World.
1936: The National Broadcasting Service was formed. Wellington’s 2YA was the flagship station and had it’s power increased to 60kW. The National Broadcasting Service also subsidised some private stations in order to provide New Zealandrs with reliable radio services, namely 4ZC Cromwell, 2ZJ Gisborne, 2YB New Plymouth, 2ZF Palmerston North, 2ZH Napier, 2ZD Masterton, 3ZR Greymouth, and 4ZP Invercargill. Additionally, the following private stations were on air: 1ZB and 1ZJ Auckland, 4ZR Balclutha, 3ZM Christchurch, 4ZB, 4ZM, 4ZL, and 4ZO Dunedin, 2ZM Gisborne, 2ZL Hastings, 1ZM Manurewa, 2ZR Nelson, 2ZO Palmerston North, and 2ZP Wairoa.
1936: on the 25th of March, the first broadcast of Parliament was aired. Insomniac DXers around the country fell asleep at the dials! Eventually four stations (the “Y-Bs”) were set up for nationwide-coverage. The same stations carried “Sports Roundup” sports commentaries when Parliament was not sitting. A recording of the first broadcast can be found on the NZ History website.
1938: the band 1560 – 1600 KHz band (then kc/s of course) was not used for broadcasting, but for mobile (maritime) use.
1947: the international allocation was changed to have broadcasting use extended up to 1605 kHz world-wide.
1949: National Broadcasting Service launches the ‘X’ class stations to join the YAs, YBs YCs and ZBs. The ‘X classers’ closed at 10:30pm and the ZBs at midnight. The first was 3XC im Timaru, followed by stations in 2XW Wanganui, 1XN Whangarei, 1XH Hamilton and 2XG Gisborne. In later years, 2XP New Plymouth, 2XA Napier and 2XN Nelson were added.
1951: the Australian MW broadcast band was extended from 1500 to 1600 kc/s. The first station to make the move was 4GM Gympie. This from Adrian Peterson of AWR: “the 1st radio station in Australia to move into the extended mediumwave band, 1500 – 1600 kHz was 4GM Gympie. This was a new ABC station and it was inaugurated on August 17, 1951 with 200 watts on 1540 kHz. Originally, in the United States this segment of the mediumwave band was set aside for experimental high fidelity stations utilizing a wide bandwidth and double separation between stations. However, as far as Australia was concerned, (and NZ as well), this new addition to the MW band was for regular MW stations, no different from any of the other stations in the MW band.
1960: The first television broadcast commenced at 7:30pm on June the 1st. DXers were soon to discover “TVI”. TV was said to be the death of radio – and DXing. Hah!
The governments broadcasting stable was defined as:
- Stations 1YA, 2YA, 3YA, 4YA, 1YZ, 2YZ, 3YZ, and 4YZ: broadcasting non-advertising programmes over a wide area of the country.
- Stations 1YC, 2YC, 3YC, 4YC, and 2YX: providing alternative non-advertising programmes to the YA and YZ stations but with slightly less extensive coverage. On 27 May 1965 the call sign of 2YX became 2YB.
- Stations 1ZB, 2ZB, 3ZB, 4ZB, 1ZD, 1XH, 2ZA, 2ZC, 4ZA, 1YD, 1ZC, 2XB, and 2YD: presenting advertising programmes mainly of a light nature and with coverage comparable to the YA and YZ stations.
- Stations 1XN, 2XG, 2XP, 2XA, 2XN, and 3XC: composite stations serving their immediate coverage areas and presenting advertising and non-advertising programmes during specified hours.
- Stations 1YW, 1XA, 1XE, 3YW, and 4YX: relay stations providing improved coverage from 1YA, 1XN, 3YZ, and 4YA respectively.
(Source: ‘New Zealand Broadcasting Service, 1936–62’, from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, originally published in 1966.
Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 22-Apr-09
1964: The NZBC’s National Programme started on 14 September 1964. The 4 x YA stations (1YA, 2YA, 3YA and 4YA) commenced 24-hour broadcasting at this time.
1965: 14 years after the Aussies, NZ started use of the new 1500 – 1600kc/s segment. This from Adrian Peterson: “the 1st station in NZ to utilize the extended MW band was 2ZE Blenheim (Radio Marlborough) with 1 kW on 1540 kHz”.
1970: the state monopoly on radio frequencies was broken, with the New Zealand Broadcasting Authority finally allowing Radio Hauraki after 4 years of transmitting from international waters, to broadcast on land, legally. The Radio Hauraki crew had spent 1,111 days at sea. The final broadcast from the seabound Hauraki Pirates was a documentary on the station’s history until that point, finishing at 10:00 pm when Tiri II turned and headed for Auckland playing “Born Free” continually. During their final voyage back to shore, announcer Rick Grant was lost overboard.
1975: The regional stations carrying the National Programme started broadcasting 24 hours.
1978: on the 23rd of November, the World Administrative Radio Conferences “Geneva Plan” was implemented. This aligned all areas of the World with the exception of the Americas, into 9kHz spacings starting at 531kHz through to 1602kHz. The Americas retained their 10kHz spacings starting at 530kHz through to 1600kHz. Anything above 1600kHz was considered lower Shortwave, so VL2UV on 1750kHz and 5UV 1630kHz(?) from universities in Australia were SW stations!
1980: From the NZDXRA’s “Tune In” in November “Worst news this month is the granting of 24 hour transmission to the Radio N.Z. Commercial and ZM stations. This now puts 61 channels on a 24 hr basis with several others granted, which will also use the same time. It now leaves 4XD, 3XG 2YB and the YC network as the only part-timers. Surely Radio N.Z. can find some lame excuse to bring the YCs on for 24 hours?”
1981: The South Pacific Association of Radio Clubs (SPARC) came into existence with The New Zealand Radio DX League, New Zealand DX Radio Association, Southern Cross DX Club and Down Under DX Circle joining forces.
1982: The FM band was opened up for broadcast stations. Commercial FM licences were finally approved, with Whakatane’s 1XX opening on 90.7MHz on 5th January at 4pm. The hoped-for mass exodus of MW stations heading to FM sadly never eventuated.
1987: New Zealand’s first Maori-language station “te Upoka O Te Ika” opened in Wellington.
1989: legislation created what was arguably the world’s most deregulated broadcasting country, New Zealand. Stations proliferated and before long there were more stations in NZ per head of population than anywhere in the world.
1993: Region 2 (the Americas) commenced use of “the extended band” (or X-band) from 1610 – 1700kHz in 10kHz steps. Initially, the band was principally used by Travellers Information (TIS) stations.
1995: In November 1995, WJDM in New Jersey became the first station to use the X-band and opened on 1660kHz. Two and a half years later, DXers in New Zealand were able to log and verify the Dallas-Fortworth Airport TIS stations running just 40 Watts on 1640 and 1680kHz.
1997: Australia allows operation of “narrowcast” stations in the X-band from 1611 to 1702kHz. On 1620kHz: 2AM “The Edge” in Caringbah, 2ME Voice of the Middle East, Sydney, 3ME Voice of the Middle East, Melbourne and 4ADR. On 1629kHz: 3MM Greek Radio, Melbourne, Footscray Commercial Broadcasters and Hospital Radio Network, Newcastle. On 1638kHz 2ME Castle Hill. On 1665kHz 2MM Greek Radio, Kingsgrove. On 1683kHz: Club AM, Kingsgrove. On 1692kHz Hott FM Nerang. On 1701khz : Al Shark Radio, Richmond.
Thanks to the following for their input: Jim Sullivan, “Sounds Historical”, Radio New Zealand; Phil Garden, Mosgiel; Adrian Peterson, AWR, USA; Ian Hutchins, Radio Spectrum Management, MBIE; Barry Williams, Auckland; Jack Fox, Mosgiel; Paul Ormandy, Oamaru; Paul Rawdon, Christchurch