The Jamming of 1ZB

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Following on from the post about the curious case of the jamming of Uncle Scrim, here is a story that appeared in the October 1990 DX Times penned by Barry Williams.


When we talk of jamming we tend to think of the Cold war during the 50s and 6os on shortwave when there was a real battle of the airwaves between the East and the West. However New Zealand had a case of jamming much earlier than than that.

lZB was jammed on the night of November 24th 1935, a few days before the general election — an incident that was to develop into a radio sensation. The election campaign was a bitter one and 1ZB and its director C.G.Scrimgeour were to present their program MAN IN THE STREET, in which it was rumoured IZB was to urge listeners to vote against the government. Seconds before the program went to air a loud crackling noise completely drowned the station signal making copy impossible. 1ZB was being jammed.

Public reaction was immediate. Hundreds of people flooded into the station, and the phones buzzed continuously. Arrangements were made to repeat the program the next evening which was 1ZB’s silent night. Things were moving quickly with accusations and denials flowing in all directions and it had rapidly become a public and political issue involving the government, the P & T and Auckland City Council.

An anonymous phone call to 1ZB suggested that the cause of the interference might be located at the P & T workshops in Newmarket as a powerful transmitter had been delivered there two days before the jamming. Mr Scrimgeour approached a senior department officer who denied all knowledge of such a transmitter. Meanwhile two members of the lZB staff surreptitiously investigated the workshops and found an antenna suspended from a telegraph pole, crossing two sets of powerlines before disappearing into a small shed divided into two sections. The front being a foremans office, the other separated by a locked door.

After five hours of intensive pressure Mr Srimgeour, the Mayor of Auckland, a detective and P & T watched as the room was opened. Sitting there was a portable and powerful transmitter showing signs of recent use. No one could give an explanation as to how it came to be there. Contradictory excuses were given by different officials, ranging from receiving shortwave football results to test communications with aeroplanes.

The following evening when 1ZB was scheduled to give the rebroadcast the technician of 1ZB’s transmitter carefully checked his equipment and found that the aerial had been tampered with, being earthed in such a way that had the transmitter been switched on considerable damage would have resulted. Repairs were made in time for transmission to commence. In the broadcast Mr Scrimgeour related the whole story then broadcast the talk which had been jammed.

The incoming government instigated a full enquiry into the incident and although no details were made public the findings were presented to parliament. It was established that instructions were issued by the former Post Master General to put 1ZB off the air for that occasion. No written instructions were given but evidently officers of the P & T decided to take action as they did.

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