Shortland Street Studios
Shortland Street Studios (1934)
Icon of the radio years
Does that tall radio mast and the spiky electric-Gothic brickwork remind you of something from a prewar movie trailer? The former 1YA studios in downtown Auckland’s Shortland Street symbolise the high point of our radio or wireless years, as they would have been called then. In 1924 we had just 2800 licensed radio receivers; there were 50,000 by 1930 and 300,000 by 1939.
Radio Service Ltd got the first of the new station licences, 1YA, in May 1923. From 1925 it was the flagship of the Radio Broadcasting Company, the private venture that operated the four YA stations under contract to the government. Behind Shortland Street’s solid brick walls, which shielded it from traffic noise, four storeys of studios catered for broadcasters’ every need. The largest, 20 x 12 x 7.6 m, occupied two floors of the building and could handle concerts. A smaller studio contained an ‘echo’ room used for generating special sound effects. Within a year of its commissioning, the studios and the rest of the YA network were nationalised by the new Labour government.
Video, as they say, killed the radio star. Later, television moved in and took over more of the building. In 1966 it commissioned the famous Studio One here, New Zealand’s biggest TV studio until Avalon opened in the Hutt Valley a decade later. Pop shows such as C’mon were made in Studio One until the state broadcasters moved into a new purpose-built television centre in 1989. The old Shortland Street building is not quite done with the glamour life. Now owned by the University of Auckland, it houses the School of Creative and Performing Arts’ new Kenneth Myers Centre and boasts very modern studios.