Tag Archives: Person to Person

The Birth of Talkback Radio in New Zealand

- By Sarah Johnston (Client Services Co-ordinator, Radio – Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

"Women’s Hour" personalities from NZBC commercial stations in 1960. Doreen Kelso of 2ZB Wellington, seated second from right (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Documentation Collection).
“Women’s Hour” personalities from NZBC commercial stations in 1960. Doreen Kelso of 2ZB Wellington, seated second from right (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Documentation Collection – RNZ Photographic Collection).

Talkback radio has long been cornerstone of late night commercial broadcasting. It can be a familiar voice for lonely shift workers and insomniacs, an outlet for people with strong opinions of all kinds or just a friendly ear for anyone wanting a chat.

In this country, it began just over 50 years ago and recordings in the Sound Collection of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision tell the story of the roots of talkback. You can hear me talking about them to Jon Bridges on RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan programme here – or listen to the recordings below.

Talkback radio began very modestly in October 1965, on the commercial network stations of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (one of the predecessors to Radio New Zealand). It was part of what had been known as The Women’s Hour. This was a slot every weekday afternoon around 2pm, which featured a local female host presenting topics thought to be of particular interest to female listeners. This programming had begun back in the 1940s and by the 1960s stations in the main centres and over a dozen regional towns –including Timaru, Nelson, Whangarei, Napier and Invercargill – all had their own local Women’s Hour host. While its focus was very heavily on domestic issues such as sharing recipes and home hints, the slot also featured studio guests, visiting celebrities, book reviews, radio dramas and the vital local advertising aimed at female shoppers.

In Masterton in the mid-1960s the Women’s Hour host was the redoubtable Jessica Weddell, who was just starting out in radio, but who would later move to Wellington where she would become the Kim Hill or Kathryn Ryan of her day, as a national current affairs interviewer. In an interview later in her career,  she explained how she was a talkback “guinea pig” and the first to trial this revolutionary idea of allowing listeners to call the studio:

Jessica Weddell – excerpt from Directions 70 – Jessica Weddell, National Radio, 9 August 1994

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Rob Muldoon’s Pineapple Whip: The ‘Personality Cook Book’ – A 1971 Snapshot of New Zealand Broadcasting, Celebrity, Social and Culinary History

- By Sarah Davy, Director, Collect [Division] Acquisition and Research, NZFA.


Being a sucker for vintage recipe books, I recently came across a slim black volume in a Murchison second-hand shop, called the Personality Cook Book. Compiled as a fundraiser for the Petone Free Kindergarten in 1971, it contains 149 ‘Favourite recipes from New Zealand’s leading personalities and the cast of Coronation Street’. Annie Walker (‘Trifle’), Len Fairclough (‘Lancashire Hot Pot’), and everyone’s favourite, the cantankerous Ena Sharples (‘Quiche Lorraine’), grace the front cover, but I was curious as to who would be among the ‘leading personalities’ 42 years ago in New Zealand. Continue reading