Remembering Radio Pioneers 100 Years On

One hundred years ago Gisborne became the home of one New Zealand’s first radio broadcasting stations.

Station 2YM was started by three Gisborne amateur radio operators — Percy Stevens, Ivan O’Meara and Bob Patty. They obtained one of the first broadcasting licences on October 27, 1923.

The station originally operated a 25 watt home-constructed transmitter from Stevens’ lounge on Wainui Road. Due to port traffic noise the station soon moved to Stevens’ business, Gisborne Radio Co. at 258 Gladstone Road.

2YM changed call sign to 2ZM in August 1926 and was re-licensed to Atwater Kent, the name of one of the agencies assigned to Stevens’ business.

DXer Eric Shackle received this QSL card from 2ZM in 1934.
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

The station was run as a community service and relied on sponsorships and donations to survive, as advertisements were prohibited. Most programmes were presented live, including concerts, recitations, talent shows and children’s sessions. All presenters and performers were volunteers.

In 1936 the government nationalised broadcasting but station 2ZM was one of two to avoid compulsory purchase, primarily because Percy Stevens refused to sell.

The station changed call sign to 2XM in September 1948 and closed on May 31, 1963, soon after Stevens passed away (aged 70).

Ivan O’Meara made world headlines in May 1924 when he made the first trans-Pacific radio contact with another amateur radio operator in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Until he achieved this record, the shortwave frequencies were considered unsuitable for long-distance communications.

Craig Crawford, Porirua

Letter to the Gisborne Herald – October 19, 2023

This material remains © The Gisborne Herald and is only to be used for non-commercial personal or research use. Any other use requires permission of the copyright holder.

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