The Call of the Friendly Islands

ZCO broadcast from this studio building in Nuku'alofa, Tonga

DX listeners and many other New Zealanders will be interested in these photographs of the opening of the Tonga Broadcasting Commission’s station ZCO. Station ZCO, in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, was officially opened by Queen Salote last month, and of its ten staff members three are New Zealanders while the manager of the Commission, R. Geoffrey Haggett, although English by birth, spent many years here.

Queen Salote officially opens ZCO in July 1961
Queen Salote arrives at the ZCO studios for the official opening ceremony. At left is Prince Tungi, chairman of the Tonga Broadcasting Commission

Mr Haggett joined the NZBS in 1947 and will be especially remembered for his annual commentaries on the Ardmore Grand Prix in Auckland. Previously he had gained experience assisting with the presentation of English programmes in India and working with the BBC Forces programme (which later became Radio SEAC) and All-India Radio. In 1956 he travelled to North Borneo to establish their Government broadcasting service, Radio Sabah, and on his return to New Zealand he was appointed presentation officer for stations 2YZ and 2ZC.

This card was issued to listeners confirming reception of ZCO for over a decade © David Ricquish Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
Ashley Keith in the ZCO studio

The station engineer, Herbert Chapman, worked as a technician for many years in both Wellington and Dunedin, with a brief interlude in 1942-43 when he worked with the New Zealand Post Office equipment department at Suva Aeradio Station. Another ex-NZBS officer is Ross MacDonald who was successively in charge of programmes at 1ZB, 2XP, 1YZ and 1YC. Previously Ross worked as a dance musician and musical arranger with the Civic Theatre Cabaret, Auckland, and while working at 2XP he wrote orchestrations and original music for the New Plymouth “Festival of the Pines” – a series of annual open air concerts which have featured artists from as far afield as England, Canada and Australia.

The fourth New Zealand member of Radio ZCO is radio technician Ashley Keith, who served with the Post and Telegraph Department in Christchurch and with Pye Telecommunications prior to his present appointment.

Of the other staff members K. Kioa Pulotu (technician), O. Taumoepeau (assistant programme officer), and S. T. Fusimalohi (announcer) were all educated in New Zealand while the chief announcer, ‘Uliti Palu, who was educated in Sydney, spent some time here after leaving college.

A commercial station, ZCO operates on 1020 kilocycles with an aerial power of 10 kilowatts. It presents a breakfast session from 7.0-9.0 a.m. (6.0-8.0 a.m. New Zealand time) and an evening programme from 7.0-11.0 p.m. (6.0-10.0 p.m. New Zealand time). The latter half of the evening an “Overseas” programme is broadcast for the benefit of listeners throughout the South Pacific.

This letter was sent to a New Zealand listener who heard the initial test broadcasts of ZCO on February 15 1961. It is signed by Mr R Geoffrey Haggett, Manager, TBC © Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

This article was originally published in the NZ Listener magazine, August 25, 1961.

Original held in the Wellington Public Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Digital layout © Radio Heritage Foundation.

Additional images © Radio Heritage Foundation.

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