New Zealand's first official TV broadcast

1 June 1960

Cartoon showing worker with square 'T V' eyes. A calendar on the wall shows 2 June.
Cartoon about New Zealand’s first live television broadcast (Alexander Turnbull Library, A-310-078)

Broadcast from Shortland St in central Auckland, New Zealand’s first official television transmission began at 7.30 p.m. The first night’s broadcast lasted just three hours and could only be seen in Auckland. It included an episode of The adventures of Robin Hood, a live interview with a visiting British ballerina and a performance by the Howard Morrison Quartet.

The television age was slow to arrive in New Zealand. Britain’s BBC led the way when it started the world’s first public service in 1936. The NBC began broadcasting in the United States in 1939. Australia had stations operating by 1956.

In New Zealand, a government committee began studying the new medium in 1949. Experimental broadcasts began in 1951 – with the proviso that they did not include anything that could be classified as ‘entertainment’. Prime Minister Walter Nash made the decision to go ahead with public broadcasts in 1959.

Early television broadcasts had limited coverage. Transmission began in Christchurch in June 1961, and in Wellington four weeks later. Dunedin had to wait until 31 July 1962. By 1965 the four stations were broadcasting seven nights a week for a total of 50 hours. There was no national network and each centre saw local programmes. Overseas programmes were flown from centre to centre and played in different cities in successive weeks. By 1969 the four television stations were broadcasting for 65 hours each week, between 2 p.m. and 11 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 2 p.m. and midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Television licences, which cost £4 each year (equivalent to $185 in 2020), were introduced in August 1960. By 1965 more than 300,000 licences had been issued. Operating costs were also partly offset by the introduction in 1961 of what many see as the scourge of modern TV – advertising. Initially advertisements were allowed only on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and more revenue was raised from television licences than from advertising.

In February 1966 the average price of a 23-inch black and white television ‘consolette’ was £131, equivalent to more than $5000 today.

Community contributions

6 comments have been posted about New Zealand's first official TV broadcast

What do you know?

Jamie W

Posted: 27 Jun 2022

Where was the the first television shop?

Jamie M

Posted: 10 Dec 2019


Posted: 09 Dec 2019

What is official. Bell were transmitting as far as I'm aware as early as 1957,

Jamie M

Posted: 23 Oct 2019

Hi Libby - I believe this was 1999

Libby Nunn

Posted: 16 Oct 2019

When did We stop having to pay for TV licences in NZ?