Amateur Experimental Period, 1921–25
In the early 1920s – the amateur experimental period – emphasis was on communication rather than on entertainment and, curiously enough, this early development was not associated with the more populous areas of the country. It was in Otago on 5 December 1921, that Professor Robert Jack, of the Department of Physics, Otago University, was issued with a permit to engage in research activities concerned with the transmission of vocal and musical items. These early experiments soon spread to other centres and by the end of 1922 six more organisations were engaged in radio broadcasting – three in Dunedin and one each in Auckland, Wellington, and Christ-church. Transmissions were sporadic and of limited duration but they laid the foundation for the development of a broadcasting industry. Apart from experimentation in the field of communications, attempts to develop what was eventually to become the most important aspect – entertainment—were stimulated by the radio trade and by the formation of radio societies. Of these, the Otago Radio Association is still active and controls 4XD (Dunedin), one of the oldest stations in the Commonwealth and the last to be operated privately in New Zealand. Extensive comparisons with progress in other countries are hardly appropriate, but New Zealand's early interest in broadcasting is illustrated by the fact that in the United Kingdom the first public service station began its transmissions in November 1922.
The number of stations continued to grow, as did the demand for the proper establishment of broadcasting as an element of national life, and it soon became apparent that some regulation was necessary. Thus in January 1923, regulations were brought down to govern the issue of broadcasting station licences.
Unlike many other forms of entertainment, broadcasting required a substantial capital investment by the licensee and, apart from the question of national interest, continuity of service was an essential. Handicapped as they often were by the lack of an assured source of income, these early private stations were able not only to provide substantial service or entertainment, but they also gave a stimulus to broadcasting generally. The next step was the establishment of a national public system of broadcasting, and this had its genesis in 1925 in an agreement reached between the Radio Broadcasting Co. of New Zealand Ltd. and the Postmaster-General.