Backyard Shows: Beloved Manawatū 2XS Radio Station Reborn

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For 1980s teens, the unlikely, low-fi return of a beloved radio station is a treat for the ears.

2XS first rocked the airwaves of Manawatū in 1981, and broadcaster Jon Hogan is the one who brought it back to life.

On deck for the first broadcast, he was also the signing voice for what was to be the last time the frequency was rebranded as MoreFM in 2005.

Hogan has been quietly reviving 2XS from a house in Palmerston North since the idea was floated at a reunion of the former gang in 2021.

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Back on air, channeling

DAVID UNWIN/Stuff

Back on the air, channeling “legacy and community”, Sue Foley and Jon Hogan celebrate the rebirth of 2XS.

Using freeware, servers crammed into cupboards and powered by solar panels, they breathe new life into the original format, while staying true to the 1980s music and original jingles that 2XS was synonymous with.

Hogan, who has spent 45 years in radio and television and runs a voice-over business, said he had a “genuine affinity” for the station that was shared with Palmerstonians around the world.

“People almost take ownership of it. They have these great memories from their childhood, and it’s like something they still want to be a part of.

He said that 2XS was the best radio station name in the world and had the song list to match.

“That’s probably the most important thing. We play music from the 2XS era.

The station featured a substantial dial change when introduced to the Manawatū Airwaves.

The average age of staff was 22 and this was reflected in their attitude towards broadcasting and the target audience.

“We hit it with a young audience. an audience that [only] had 2ZA for so long,” Hogan said.

A September 1981 news clipping of the fledgling station.

PROVIDED

A September 1981 news clipping of the fledgling station.

2ZA was AM in every way, middle of the road and aimed at moms and dads.

2XS listeners were drawn to talent such as Ian Watkin, who that same year had starred in Goodbye Porkpie, and the station launched the broadcasting careers of Hamish Mackay, Robert Scott and Jeremy Corbett.

Well-known MoreFM breakfast host Mike West started with 2XS in 1989.

Palmerston North wife Vivienne Porteous remembers the anticipation of tuning into the station and rushing to the record button on her stereo to catch the latest hits from her mixtapes.

“It was quite exciting to have an FM station and advertise to young people.”

Moving from AM to FM, then to FM stereo, 2X2 helped give teens a sense of identity through its demographic and geographic focus.

“It wasn’t just about Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch,” Porteous said.

Sue Foley, a journalist and television producer, spent nine years with the station after cutting her teeth at Courier Rangitikei to Martin.

“There would be very few people who wouldn’t say that their time at 2XS wasn’t the best time of their lives.

“It was just a really fun time… You kind of have to set your own rules, which you just can’t do now.”

2XS FM has been quietly revived over the past 12 months, but a billboard near Palmerston North Airport is making a bold play for listeners' ears.

DAVID UNWIN/Stuff

2XS FM has been quietly revived over the past 12 months, but a billboard near Palmerston North Airport is making a bold play for listeners’ ears.

2XS was sold in 1998 and rebranded as MoreFM in 2005, now operated by MediaWorks.

The idea of ​​reviving the station was discussed at a 40th anniversary staff meeting in 2021 and then put into practice by Hogan, former staffer Jeremy Matthews and an unnamed “TART” (television technician and radio).

While the spirit of the original 2XS team returned to the 24-hour backyard broadcasts, the technology needed an overhaul.

Hogan said the original transmitter mast was at Longburn. There was a favorable water table below and the “signal traveled for miles and it was really good”.

The reborn 2XS is “low-power FM, from the top of a tall building in Palmerston North”. The frequency can be tuned to 106.7, but listening online is the most reliable option.

For Hogan, the new incarnation of the brand is about heritage and community.

“What we’re trying to do here is get the smaller aspects of our community back on the air…so that concert guides align with arts and theater to let people know what’s going on.”

The station's original transmitter mast at Longburn.  The resurgent station is best known via its website.

PROVIDED

The station’s original transmitter mast at Longburn. The resurgent station is best known via its website.

Foley also joined 2XS, performing “The Foley Files”, one-minute glimpses into life in the area.

“Fun stuff, hilarious stuff. Some quite touching human stories too. You realize there’s a lot of kindness in the community,” she said.

Her new role on 2XS feels like a throwback to her media days.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned working for the smallest newspaper in the world is how much people love local, I think that’s something people really underestimate these days. .

“And, you know, people really like to know what’s going on.”

The station’s website is at 2xsfm.co.nz/

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