New Zealand's first radio station celebrates 100 years on air

Source: 1News

Radio Dunedin, formerly known as 4XD, claims to be the first radio station in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the longest standing in the world.

Today it celebrated a century on air, something the Otago Radio Association president Gordon Paine says no other station has done.

"It's huge, 100 years of continuous broadcasting. Nobody else in the country has done it, and we don't know how many others in the world," he said.

"We are the longest lived - there's no doubt about it. We're older than the BBC."

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson grew up in the southern city, and returned today to unveil a plaque marking the milestone.

He said to last 100 years in any kind of broadcasting is an "incredible achievement".

"I always love coming back to Dunedin and I very much remember Radio Dunedin 4XD as it was as part of my childhood here," Robertson said.

"Not many communities in the world would be able to support a radio station like this continuously for 100 years."

That's where the volunteers come in. They largely run the station and keep it afloat.

Hundreds of volunteers have been and gone through decades, all contributing for the love of radio.

"For something to survive 100 years in such a tumultuous industry as broadcasting, it requires genuine commitment and the volunteers for Radio Dunedin are a phenomenal group of people," Robertson said.

"They are so committed to broadcasting and so committed to being part of this community, so volunteers are what makes this station."

They look after all broadcast hours minus the afternoon show, which is hosted by Dan Murphy.

"It's really incredible that it's lasted this long, but not only to last this long but to stay true to its heart," Murphy said.

But it hasn't been all smooth sailing.

Lyndsay Rackley has been with Radio Dunedin since 1961 and says the biggest challenge came in 1985.

"We had a young teenager burn down our transmitter site," he said.

"3ZM or 3YD, as it was called in those days, that was the station the young teenager from Andersons Bay couldn't hear after we put our transmitter on at five o'clock.

"That was the reason that he burned the transmitter down so he could hear his station in Christchurch."

It took a week to get back up and running, and get good music and even better stories back on air.

"I love the fact that so many people rely on us for companionship, and that it is a huge part of those people's lives, we get phone calls out of the blue just to say 'g'day, how are ya?' and I've worked in other radio stations before - that doesn't happen," Murphy said.

Murphy says a Radio Dunedin audience is typically 50-plus, someone who enjoys older music, likes a good yarn and is passionate about Dunedin.

"Because it's all about Dunedin.

"We play The Eagles, bit of Bob Marley, Bob Seger, The Hollies, The Rolling Stones, all the good old stuff.

"But if you catch yourself on an evening or a weekend when the volunteers are playing, it could be anything; could be '80s, could be country - it could be whatever that show is at the time."

And audiences love it - it's the second most popular music station in the city.

The Otago Radio Association's Gordon Paine is confident the station will survive another century to provide many more years of southern comfort.

"It's heard from Oamaru down to Balclutha so it's part of Otago but it's part of Dunedin, the fabric of Dunedin life."