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Radio New Zealand Signs On

Radio New Zealand Shortwave Service in 1948

From Monday, September 27, listeners with shortwave receivers in many parts of the world will pick up new signals. They will come from the New Zealand transmitters ZL2, ZL3 and ZL4 of the recently-created Shortwave Division of the New Zealand Broadcasting Service. 'Radio New Zealand' as it is called, will provide a service for the New Zealand Dependencies in the Pacific and for the Trust Territory of Western Samoa, and at the same time offer a programme of general interest to listeners in other countries.

RNZ 10th anniversary

This card was issued by Radio New Zealand in 1958 to celebrate its 10th anniversary

Experimental broadcasts made last November were followed by about 1500 letters to the NZBS from people overseas. Some came from as far away as England and Sweden. And of these letters, 1000 or so were from Australia. A frequent comment from Australia was 'It came in just like our local station'.

In New Guinea and New Britain, reception varied from good to very good. In Fiji, Samoa and the Cook Islands, reception was classified as good; in Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies it was described as fair to good. Letters also came from the Philippines, China, Japan, Korea, Burma, India and the Middle East, U.S.A, South America, Canada, British West Indies, Belgium and Finland; and some sailors at sea took the trouble to write in.

The prime purpose of Radio New Zealand is to give a programme to the South Pacific area, including Australia, and also to assist in building up our goodwill overseas. The transmissions, to start with, will be limited to two hours daily, from 7.0 p.m. to 9.0 p.m., New Zealand Standard Time, and the policy of the Shortwave Division will be to present programmes containing a maximum of entertainment.

About three-quarters of the time on the air will be given to music; talks and news sessions will be short. Though the latest census figures show our population as fewer than one and three-quarter million, and we can lay claim to having produced few world-famous musicians, New Zealanders have a healthy interest in music, and the standard of local performances will allow the Division to include New Zealand artists in its programmes.

Maori Lore And Music

Overseas visitors find the music of the Maori people, with its strong melodic line and well-defined rhythm interesting and pleasant to listen to. Some of the Maori mythology too, is good radio material, and so, at times, Maori songs and stories will be broadcast from the studios.

Talks will deal with many aspects of New Zealand life and there will be sporting commentaries and NZBS productions of plays and short stories. Each week, one session, prepared in conjunction with the Government Tourist Department will detail New Zealand's attractions as a country for tourists to visit, and give information about air and shipping services. A 'Mail Box' section will answer overseas listeners questions.

With the present aerial array, the Division will use ZL2, ZL3 and ZL4 in the 31-, 25- and 19-metre bands respectively. Using two transmitters, the station will broadcast the same programme on two frequencies, thus providing alternatives to meet varying reception conditions in different parts of the world, as is the usual shortwave practice.

The NZBS emphasises that Radio New Zealand will be a purely overseas service and is not intended for local reception. Under certain conditions the programmes may be heard in New Zealand, but satisfactory reception will be unlikely. Programme schedules will be sent to those overseas people who wrote to the NZBS following the November tests.

On the Technical Side

For readers who are interested in the technical details of shortwave broadcasting, here is some information about the engineering side of the new service.

RNZI Transmitter

The current Radio New Zealand tower array near Taupo

The studios, at the Head Office of the NZBS, 38 The Terrace, Wellington, can be linked with the main medium-wave broadcasting stations in New Zealand, so that programmes originating in other parts of the country can be made available to overseas listeners.

The two transmitters used by the Shortwave Division are at Titahi Bay, 17 miles from Wellington. Each transmitter has a radiated energy of 7.5 kilowatts. They use high-level modulation, with two 889R type valves as Class B modulators, and two 889R type valves as the final modulated RF stage. The frequency range covers 6-22 mc/s and a change in frequency can be made in less than two minutes.

As the initial programme service is intended primarily for Australia and the Pacific, all the present aerials are designed for a broad beam width of 58 degrees. The majority of the aerials consist of two-tier, two-bay half-wave-length, horizontal radiating elements with reflectors. These aerials have the radiating elements spaced a half-wave-length in the vertical plane, while the later slewable beams for the Pacific Service are being designed with a vertical spacing of 0.7 wave-lengths. All radiating elements consist of three-wire, centre-fed 'Kraus' structures.

Highlights from the proposed programme are as follows:-

  • New Zealand News: Daily at 5.30 p.m. (Except Sundays)
  • New Zealand Artists: New Zealand musicians will be heard regularly in the programmes. On Tuesdays, at 7.15 p.m. and Saturdays at 8.40 p.m., New Zealand artists will be featured in light musical entertainment.
  • Song and Story of The Maori: Sundays at 7.40 p.m.
  • Listener's Digest: Saturdays at 8.0 p.m.- a weekly radio magazine with a woman's page, a page of music, and other items of interest
  • New Zealand- Pacific Playground: Sundays at 7.30 p.m.- a session of travel information for the visitor to New Zealand.
  • Mail Box: Thursdays at 8.0 p.m.- Answers to letters and replies to questions.
  • Short Stories: Tuesdays at 8.0 p.m.- stories by overseas and New Zealand writers.
  • Plays: Fridays at 7.30 p.m.- from the Production Studios of the NZBS.
  • Talks: Mondays at 8.0 p.m.- a series covering a wide field of New Zealand background information.
  • Farm Topics: Tuesdays at 7.30 p.m.- news and recent developments from the farmers point of view.
  • Leisure Hours in New Zealand: Wednesdays at 8.0 p.m.- How New Zealanders occupy their leisure with arts, hobbies and sports.
  • Through New Zealand: Thursdays at 8.0 p.m.- talks dealing with the New Zealand countryside, the coastline, outlying islands, and the country people.
  • Sporting Commentary: Mondays at 7.30 p.m.- commentators highlight the main sporting events of the previous week.
  • Pars from the Sporting Page: Wednesdays at 7.30 p.m.- news paragraphs concerning sportsmen and general sporting activities.

For a long time, New Zealand has received shortwave services from other countries; now it will be able to offer reciprocal services.

Original article from the 'New Zealand Listener' September 1948 © Radio New Zealand Limited


In 2000, Radio New Zealand International continues to broadcast programs to Australia and the Pacific from studios in Wellington, and 100kW transmitters located in the central North Island between the resort town of Taupo and the city of Napier on the Pacific coast.


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