Radio 1XX, New Zealand’s last private commercial radio station, celebrates 50 years

Chloe Blommerde – Stuff – June 27, 2021

Radio One Double X – then and now. Photo: 1XX

It was one of New Zealand’s first private commercial radio stations – and now it’s the last.

Radio One Double X (1XX) in the Eastern Bay of Plenty is celebrating 50 years on air, after hitting the airwaves for the first time in 1971.

Since its launch, the community-driven radio station has won station of the year (non-surveyed market) eight times at the New Zealand Radio Awards.

It’s become a platform for local news, and the first point of call in a state of emergency.

1XX announcer Colin Magee said that during the 2004 floods, people were calling the radio station before calling the emergency services.

It covered major events like the 1987 Edgecumbe earthquakes, the floods of 2004 and 2005 affecting Whakatāne, Ōpōtiki and Matatā, and in recent times the flooding and evacuation of Edgecumbe in 2017 and the devastating eruption at Whakaari White Island in December 2019.

1XX news journalist Chris Bullen describes the effects of the Edgecumbe earthquakes in 1987. Video: Stuff

The man behind much of the station’s success is managing director Glenn Smith.

Smith started with the company in 1975 – 46 years ago – in promotions and announcing, before taking over the general manager role from Christopher Turver in 1981.

“The community aspect is key for me, and it’s an opportunity to serve and grow a community,” Smith told Stuff.

“Because we are in some ways off the beaten track, we’ve been able to link the entire area together.

“Radio is over 100 years old, but it’s stronger than ever.”

1XX managing director Glenn Smith cuts the cake on the station’s 40th birthday, 10 years ago. Photo: 1XX

Smith described the past 46 years as “rich with experience”.

Yet it was the Edgecumbe quakes in 1987 that left a mark in Smith’s mind.

“We had people sleeping in the building for three weeks, we dropped all of our paid advertising for a month, we just focused on the earthquake.

“We really responded in a way the community wanted us to.”

1XX was the fourth independent commercial station on air – behind Radio Hauraki, Radio i, and Radio Waikato – but the first private station in a provincial region. It’s now the last of the original batch of private commercial stations that went to air in the 70s.

Many have since become a “branded” station, yet 1XX stuck to its motto – “All Eastern Bay, all the time” –and remained independent.

Operating under the company name of Radio Whakatāne, the station changed its name to Radio Bay of Plenty Limited to better reflect the coverage area and to help garner more national advertising.

The original crew of 1XX in 1971. Fred Botica is pictured in the back row, second from left. Photo: 1XX

Its original lineup of announcers included Paul Lineham, Fred Botica, Brian Strong, Steve Swallow and Lee Hanner.

Botica was the first voice on air, and he remembers it like it was yesterday.

“I was in the studio practising … and the studio engineer came in and asked me to do the first broadcast.”

1XX went to air at 10.30am on Wednesday, June 30. The first song played was House at Pooh Corner​ by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band​, written by Kenny Loggins​.

“The way the whole town and community got behind the new radio station was fantastic,” Botica said.

“I learned the ropes and everything to do with radio. It set me up for what turned out to be a great radio career.”

Botica left 1XX in 1973 and made his way to Perth, Australia, where he’s been for the past 35 years.

The 1984 1XX caravan would travel around the Eastern Bay. Photo: 1XX

But for one local, the station became home.

Colin Magee is the longest-serving breakfast announcer at 1XX.

Growing up in Ōtākiri and Galatea, Magee joined the station in 1986 as an 18-year-old after a brief stint in farming.

He spent 10 years travelling the country for his career with his wife and quadruplets but returned home in 1998 and sat in the breakfast chair for 23 years.

For Magee, it was the 2004 floods that were a memorable moment in his career.

“It unfolded so rapidly, I was getting over 100 calls an hour,” Magee said.

“People were stranded and wanted to know who they could call … and they were calling the radio station because we were following it so closely.

“That’s where local radio really exceeds.”

Magee gave up his “dream job” in breakfast late last year; he’s now the daytime announcer, and working in sales.

The longest-serving breakfast announcer at 1XX, Colin Magee. Photo: 1XX

Other notable names have passed through during the station’s 50 years on air.

Journalist David Boddy, who worked at 1XX in the early days of the station, later went on to be press secretary for British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Original TVNZ Lotto host Doug Harvey, TV3 anchor Leanne Malcolm, The Crowd Goes Wild’s Ric Salizzo, TVNZ 1 sports reporter Stephen Stuart, TV personality Melanie Kerr and Breakfast weather presenter Matty McLean, were also part of the station’s stable.

The station is welcoming former staff to “come home” and celebrate on the evening of June 26 – a few days before its 50th on June 30, 2021.

© Stuff June 27, 2021. This material remains © Stuff Limited and is only to be used for non-commercial personal or research use. Any other use requires permission of the copyright holder.

Ten Years Earlier…

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