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Jeff Weinstein suggested:

> The genesis of the use of "ZED", I believe, was with the BBC in the
> early days of shortwave broadcasting.  It was quickly adopted by other
> radio services operating on shortwave in order to accommodate the
> interference from static, signal fades, and phase distortion inherent
> in typical shortwave broadcasts.
Nice story, but before we draw the conclusion that folks in former
British colonies pronounce the 26th letter of the alphabet as they do
because of propagation from the the mother country, consider the
following from the Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992):

"Old English did not normally use z, the name Elizabeth being an
exception.  The use of zed as a term of abuse in Shakespeare's King Lear
('Thou whoreson zed!  Thou unnecessary letter!' 2.2) suggests that
although it was then being increasingly written it was held in low
esteem.  The modification of British English zed (from Old French zede,
through Latin, from Greek zeta) to zee in American English appears to
have been by analogy with bee, dee, vee, etc."

Lear was first performed in 1605 or 1606.  The BBC first performed in
1922.  'Nuff said.

In the interests of retaining some relevance to New England radio here,
I will note that I recall Casey Kasem in the early '70s saying "American
Top 40 is heard on great radio stations like WMEX Boston, WSAR Fall
River, and 4KZ Melbourne, Australia."  He always pronounced it "zed"
when he mentioned the Australian station.