Radio Advertisment, Gordon Burt; photographer; circa 1930; New Zealand

100 years of New Zealand radio

On the 17th of November 1921, the harsh rasp of spark transmitter morse code was interrupted in New Zealand by our first radio transmission with speech and music. This national first was achieved by Professor Robert Jack from the University of Otago – a pioneer in radio and television technologies, with a transmitter made from navy surplus parts procured during a trip to England in 1920.

Although there is no recording of this original test transmission, Radio New Zealand’s 1972 Spectrum documentary ‘Broadcasting Plus 50: 50 Years of Radio in New Zealand’, reconstructs the event (using the original equipment) and charts the development of radio in the country.

Documentary available within TV and Radio

The Spectrum documentary is available in our TV and Radio service.  Celebrate the radio broadcast centenary by ‘tuning in to the wireless’ and hear how radio in New Zealand got started 100 years ago.

Listen to the first radio transmission

William Hamill, Media Services


Sullivan, J. (1998). Story: Robert Jack, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Robert Jack. New Zealand History.

Perkins, J. (1972, September 3). Broadcasting plus 50: 50 years of broadcasting in New Zealand. Radio New Zealand

Feature image: Radio Advertisment, Gordon Burt; photographer; circa 1930; New Zealand.