23 Apr 2000

A Stirring Thrills the Air: The broad picture 1921-1935

From the collecton Resounding Radio

We quickly embrace the first electronic mass-medium. A few hundred wire-fiddling enthusiasts in the early 1920s grow, even through the depression years, to 152,000 licence holders by 1935.

Programme contents:

The contents are listed by running time, detail of material and name of the person speaking, where applicable. 'Actuality' means that the material is drawn from a 'live' or recorded programme or event.

0 minutes - 50 seconds Song: Hello my Dearie first broadcast on the evening of 17 November 1921 by Professor Jack, Physics Department, Dunedin University.

2' 10" A later Professor Jack broadcast heard in Wellington causes much excitement. Clive Drummond

3' 00" People laugh when pioneer broadcaster Lionel Slade claims he can hear 2LO London and America. He demonstrates radio at church bazaars. Onlookers can take home a 'hidden' gramophone if they can find it. Sceptics look under tables. Lionel Slade

4' 40"  The 1903 Wireless Telegraphy Act, says people must have licence to receive or transmit. New Zealand is first in world to anticipate the power of radio. Peter Downes (Broadcasting historian and National Programme Manager 1970s-80s). Peter Downes

5' 10" To get a receiving licence people must draw a circuit diagram and swear on the Bible not to reveal secrets overheard on air. John Stannage

6' 05" Enthusiasts share expensive earphones and build home crystal sets. James Hartstonge, Edna Gyde

7' 55" Reception is great – 100 watts covers Canterbury because there's no interference from electrical equipment. Hear America during the day on medium not shortwave – extraordinary!

8' 55" February 1922, station in Courtenay Place Wellington uses radio to create market, father of commercial radio. Representative for De Forrest Corp New York. Charles Forrest

9' 30" Records for broadcast rare early on and borrowed from shops. Microphone in front of sound box gives poor sound. Nimmos shop lent pianola. Clive Drummond

10' 40" Steel needle is in groove. Microphone is always live so they have to be be careful what they say.

11' 20" 1922 sees stations in Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch and a second Wellington station in February. Signal is heard on Wellington harbour cruises with much dancing. Clive Drummond

12' 00" 1923 and 11 stations are on air, some in provinces.

12' 30" Radio Regulations 1923 create four regions around main centres. The licence fee is 5/- or 20/- for transmitter. Only education or information content is allowed – no advertising, no controversy, which is seen as an impediment to genuine news service. Peter Downes

14' 35" One family provides the whole evening's entertainment: dad on trombone, mum on piano etc all in evening dress and bow tie. Programme details are publicised in press. Walter Sinton

15' 55" Auckland station pauses at 9.00pm for supper to allow the generator to cool. John Gordon

16' 20" 1925, an authority to run radio is tendered out by government to Radio Broadcasting Company. RBC buys out main centre stations and creates lYA, 2YA, 3YA, 4YA funded by licence fee. Remaining 'B' stations survive on donations but no advertising.

17' 25" Buyout of 2YK Wellington protested in verse. Peter Downes

18' 10" John Prentice, Auckland, 1927 phone-in great success but no talk-back tiIl 1965.

19' 20" In 1920s New Zealand embraces radio rapidly. The same later, with TV. Seems it's our nature to adopt the new. Peter Downes

20' 20" Front off piano for broadcast and instructions to artists how to perform behind microphone.

21' 50" 1YA Auckland improvises talk from fish and chip newspaper. Tom Venables, Bill Huggins

23' 15" A 'mechanical musical instruments' restriction encourages live artists but extends to gramophones and causes problems.

24' 10" Fees to 'standard' artists 1 guinea but 'novelty' artists half fee – receives no complaints.

25' 15" Description of crowd for studio auditions and interminable performance, Sundays France St studio Auckland. Eric Waters

27' 40" Programme organiser in Auckland gets only 3 guineas a week for artists' fees, so pleads with music teachers and pupils to perform for nothing. Dudley Wrathal

29' 00" Grace Green on 'B' stations, later worked at 3ZB Christchurch, starts work before 7am, breaks at midday, then back at 5pm. Bikes home after midnight 7 days a week. Two staff. Grace Green

30' 15" Clive Drummond signs off "goooood night" manager objects, announcers on YA must be anonymous. Listener sends poem. Peter Downes

31' 55" When Drummond walks Lambton Quay, heads turn, he's held in high esteem.

33' 00" Children's presenters are exception to anonymity rule, more informality allowed. Very popular with all age-groups. Wellington children's presenter Aunt Gwen's wedding is first live wedding broadcast. Peter Downes

33' 50" Napier presenter describes a typical children's programme. Winifred McCarthy

35' 50" Spread of stations means radio can be used as information source in civil emergency. 1929 Murchison earthquake and Napier 1931. First manager West Coast uses shortwave and local station to feed news of Napier to listeners and newspapers Mic Spiers manager 3ZR. Mic Spiers

37' 15" Letter praising radio's role in Napier quake. Peter Downes

38' 40" Arctic explorer Admiral Byrd's broadcast from Dunedin 1930 is linked to the world. Great technical feat. Ken Collins

40' 20" 1934 first recording equipment. In early 1930s Radio Broadcasting Company Head A.R. Harris visits USA, brings back first acetate serial Abroad with the Lockharts, forerunner of soap operas. Peter Downes

41' 45" Actuality: Abroad with the Lockharts

42' 20" 1928 New electronic pick-up allows far more technical control.

42' 45" Radio Broadcasting Company (RBC) replaced by government-appointed Radio Broadcasting Board (RBB). This brings full government control of radio a step nearer.

43' 00" In spite of the depression, licences increase from 8,500 in 1930 to 152,000 in 1935.

43' 20" Role of radio in depression: is common bond, radio stations in small towns, community involvement on air, radios in work camps. Alwyn Owen

44' 40" Actuality: First round-the-world Christmas message 1932, written by Rudyard Kipling with radio theme. King George V

45' 45" Reconstruction of first broadcast by Professor Jack, and Jack's vision for radio from Otago Daily Times, 1921