Sixty years ago, on June 1, 1960, – much later than elsewhere in the world (Britain was 1936), New Zealand's first, non-experimental state-run television transmission went to air (television trials had been running since 1958).
The three hours of transmission 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.
Television was introduced first into the four main centres, with Auckland first and Dunedin last in 1962.
A Hawke's Bay TV Promotion Society had been formed (of mostly appliance dealers), and they installed in April 1963 on top of the 640 metre Mount Kahuranaki, a translator unit had 5 watts of analogue signal which came from Kau Kau in Wellington.
Ivan Small and Peter Bone were tasked by president of the society, Albert Collins (a radio wholesaler in Hastings), to build and install the translator. The translator transmitted the analogue signal via a reflector aerial, which was built by Peter.
From a report given by Mr H Barden in Hastings, he was able to watch the Anzac Day services in Wellington "in a room which was not properly darkened and the pictures were quite good".
A Napier viewer on the flat said the pictures were better than they had been but there was some fading. Bluff Hill viewers got a better reception, but also experienced some fading.
The Hawke's Bay Herald Tribune wrote in April 1963 "How to live with TV: problem for HB soon."
Some of the concerns that the reporter outlined (based on Britain's experiences) was money being diverted to television either by purchasing, servicing or paying the £4 (2020: $175) licence fee; that it "wrecks social intercourse"; keeps children indoors when they should be playing outside; takes precedence over children's homework and that they know television commercial jingles better than nursery rhymes.
Apart from eager television consumers (in April 1963 there were 82,000 licensed TVs), another group of people were happy to see the introduction of television – the manufacturers and retailers.
While it may seem very odd considering today's electronics, televisions were manufactured in New Zealand – in fact in 1963 there were 20 firms engaged in making them.
During the 1963/64 year 113,904 TVs were made in New Zealand. Tight import licensing controls were introduced in 1958 ‒ mostly to encourage full employment - created these industries.
While some components were made here, others were imported through allocation of overseas exchange. Due to this method of inefficient manufacture, the costs of producing a TV here were around 100 per cent above those of production in large, industrialised countries.
Therefore when retailers in Hawke's Bay during 1963 began selling 23 inch black and white TVs, the cost of one was expensive.
Agnew's had the "famous Murphy TV" for £159-10 shillings ($7000) or 25 shillings and three pence ($130) per week. They would give free demonstrations in your home of the TV.
Paul Barcham Limited of Hastings was selling the PYE "EL Greeco" TV, also for £159 10 s, which was a UK brand manufactured under licence in Waihi.
Loach and Price in Hastings sold Bell, Phillips and Ultimate brands – as well at £159 10.
More expensive was the Whitehall TV sold by Refrigeration Sales and Service Ltd for £179 ($7800).
The most expensive was a Bell Fiesta TV - Radiogram for £295 ($13,000) sold at Sutcliffe's in Hastings. This contained a 23 inch black and white TV in "high definition", a 7-valve world-wide radio and automatic record player and "THREE 9 inch x 6 inch stereo tonal speakers".
A service plan was usually taken out on the TV, and one unhappy consumer wrote to the Hawke's Bay Herald Tribune complaining that he had paid £23 ($1000) for a two year service contract and when his aerial fell down in a gale, he was told this was not covered.
A retailer replied to the letter and said the only coverage was for the components of the TV and labour charges. If your TV broke down outside of retail working hours, a surcharge could apply. Aerials were not covered, and "he advised people taking out contracts to read them carefully".
In 1964, a broadcast relay station was commissioned for Mount Erin. A new translator and aerials were set up on Te Mata Peak in late 1965, which received its input signal from Wharite in Manawatū.
Mount Erin was operational in 1966.
In 1969 the four stations in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin were networked.
Colour television came to New Zealand on October 31, 1973 in time for the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games.
Analogue television signals from Mount Erin were shut down in September 2012, when it was replaced with digital terrestrial television. Hawke's Bay and West Coast were the first parts of New Zealand to experience what was termed the "analogue switch off".
Michael Fowler (email@example.com) is a contract researcher, commercial business writer of Hawke's Bay history.