Live election-night results were first broadcast on radio in 1922, but the immediate impact of the new medium was limited: in the mid 1920s only about one in 60 New Zealand households had a radio. The popularity of radio exploded in the 1930s, however, and by 1940 four out of five New Zealand households had a set.
Nevertheless, broadcasting rules prohibited the airing of programmes concerning 'politics or any other controversial matters'. In 1935 the Broadcasting Board banned all election candidates from the airwaves.
The first Labour government, however, was keen to take advantage of radio's potential to reach ordinary New Zealanders - especially as most of the country's newspapers supported their conservative opponents.
During the 1938 election campaign politicians were allowed to broadcast election messages for the first time, albeit under strict controls.
The state-owned National Broadcasting Service aired six speeches by Labour MPs, four by National members and two by independents. Private stations were only allowed to broadcast brief announcements of election meetings for 15 minutes each day.
Radio's role in election campaigns expanded in the 1940s, and it soon surpassed public meetings and newspapers as the single most important election medium. But political parties still used radio in fairly unimaginative ways, simply recording public meetings or broadcasting one-person studio lectures. Listeners needed plenty of stamina too: in 1960, for example, 10 of the 35 party broadcasts were two hours long.
Did you know?
In 1936 New Zealand became the first country in the world to begin regular broadcasts of the proceedings of Parliament.