2HD began broadcasting on 27 January 1925, a day after Sydney’s 2UE began operations, making it Australia’s second oldest existing radio station. The station’s call sign are the initials of the founder, Harry Douglas, not “Hunter District” as commonly believed. Douglas was a keen amateur radio enthusiast, and an alderman on the Newcastle City Council from 1919 to 1922.
The station was originally in the suburb of Hamilton, but moved to the corner of Darby and King Streets soon after. Douglas sold the station to William Johnston in 1928, who sold the station to the Airsales Broadcasting Company two years later in 1930. Airsales owned the company for 10 years, and was responsible for the move to its landmark studio building in Sandgate, which was 2HD’s home for nearly 50 years. Although the building itself is very different, the middle section of the building is still the 1931 building.
Under controversial circumstances during World War II, 2HD was closed in 1941, under the National Security Regulations. At the time, around 25 staff were employed by the station, and stories claimed that the station’s owners were sending covert messages, based on the timing of the music being played etc. 2HD remained silent until near the end of the war when the Australian Labor Party and the Labor Council of New South Wales bought the station, and resumed transmissions on 15 January 1945. One of 2HD’s notable personalities of the 1930s was Uncle Rex Sinclair, who continued to perform on local radio and stage until shortly before his death in 2001.
The Labor Party and the NSW Labour Council owned 2HD from 1945 until 1999. For the first 29 years of its ownership, the station was under the management of Jim Storey, with his wife Twink acting as program director and on-air personality. Other announcers during this time included Harry Randall, Stuart Dibbley and Tom Delaney.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, 2HD was one of the founding shareholders of local television station NBN Television.
2HD broadcast in the popular The Good Guys of Life format, also used by other stations, including 2SM Sydney. Presenters during this time included Harry Randall, Tom Delaney, Art Ryan, Haff Enegg, Mal Lamonte, John Hill, Allan McGirvan, Mike Jeffries, Malcolm Elliott, Keith Haerris, Graeme Gilbert, Don Mayo, Rob Maynard and Cliff Musgrave. Towards the end of this period, announcer Geoff Gregory joined the station, but was better known as a program director, and host of the Sunday night program Country Sounds.
After the Good Guys era ended, 2HD transmitted other formats including Easy Alternative and country. In 1977, the original office building on Maitland Road Sandgate was closed. Several years prior to that, the building was gradually being demolished, starting with the destruction of the original transmitter building to make way for a dual carriageway along Maitland Road in 1964. The increased traffic and the location of the road near the old building was taking its toll. A new administration building, nicknamed “the submarine” was built, and NSW Premier Neville Wran opened the building in 1977.
In the late 1970s-early 1980s, the station was the subject of a takeover bid from NBN, which resulted in a shake-up in ownership at the television station, and the bid was eventually rejected.
For decades after the end of the “Good Guys” era, the station’s ratings were in the doldrums, however, the station accomplished its first number one ratings success in 1987, after adopting a strong news and talk format. Factors in this success were the recruitment of 2KO’s Pat Barton to present their breakfast program, and Warwick Teece, whose Openline program was a huge success. Program Director Peter Butler was a key part of the station’s success, guiding the team to the top of the ratings. The coverage of the Newcastle Earthquake in 1989 by the news team, led by Tony Briscoe, won the station a National Radio Award. The 90’s saw 2HD confirm its place as the top rating station in Newcastle, led by the breakfast team of David Collins and Tanya Wilks who notched up over 8 years of consecutive survey wins, and supported by Geoff Jay and Richard King.
The station expanded, following the purchase of local FM station NEW FM in 1995, which resulted in internal remodelling of the building. In 1999, the NSW Labor Party and NSW Labour Council sold the station to Bill Caralis and his Broadcast Operations Group.
In 1997, the station added the John Laws morning program to its lineup, becoming a ratings success. After Laws retired, Steve Price took on the morning shift, then in 2010, Steve Libermann. The station lineup in 2018 consists of Richard King and Kim Bauer for Breakfast, John Laws (returned 31 January 2011), Brent Bultitude in the Afternoons from 12-4pm, Talkin’ Sport from 4 – 7pm, Graeme Gilbert with Talk Tonight and Gary Stewart Talk Overnight.
2UE changed its name in 2017, making Newcastle’s 2HD the oldest radio brand in Australia.