About Spectrum

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Spectrum is a long-running documentary series – it began in 1972 - which captures the essence of New Zealand through stories, landscape and people. It is the place for the quirky and colourful, for character and personality; for the portrayal of events and places. It tells a story rather than questions an issue. It doesn’t moralise, seek strict balance, or judge. It can be told in the voice of one person or several. The narrator’s role is to facilitate the telling of stories using the voices of the participants.

It will usually avoid hard news and current affairs. Where it tackles a topical or current issue it will be from the human interest aspect of the story.

Spectrum will always favour the sound-rich evocation rather than any more conventional script-based documentary form. It will generally be recorded away from the studio in the environment of the topic, using as much natural ambient sound as is appropriate.


Three producers ensure that Spectrum’s topics range country-wide. Executive producer Jack Perkins works out of Wellington, Deborah Nation covers the South Island from Christchurch and David Steemson is based in Auckland.

Spectrum also acts as a training ground for novice producers both inside and outside Radio New Zealand. They receive training and assistance to produce material for Spectrum and other programmes.

Alwyn Owen – now retired – and Jack Perkins began Spectrum in 1972. During its first 20 years or so, the series often included first-hand accounts of New Zealand life as far back as the 1890s. Spectrum has, therefore, become recognised as one of New Zealand’s most valuable libraries of oral history.

Copies of past programmes of Spectrum can be obtained from Replay Radio. CDs are $30 each. Email Replay Radio or telephone 0800 737 529.

Spectrum by location

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