Milestones from the last 50 years of NZ TV

TVNZ has compiled a comprehensive timeline of significant and memorable events that have occured in and around the television industry in New Zealand over the past 50 years.

From the broadcast of the Wahine disaster footage in 1968, to the very first screening of Shortland Street in 1992, it’s all there.

Take a trip down memory lane below.


BBC in Britain broadcast the first television images in 1936

NBC began broadcasting in the United States in 1939.


NZ Government formed departmental committee to study the new medium of television


Experimental closed-circuit demonstration broadcasts began on the proviso that they did not include anything that could be classified as ‘entertainment’


TV begins in Australia


NZ Prime Minister Walter Nash declared that public broadcasts of TV could proceed.  Television would be introduced as an entertainment medium


The first official transmission of television began at 7.30 pm on the 1st of June from Shortland Street Studios in Auckland. (1st June)

 AKTV2 broadcast for 3 hours but could only be received in Auckland.

The first night of programming included an episode of The Adventures of Robin Hood with the Howard Morrison Quartet performing live

Ian Watkins became the first TV presenter when he interviewed English ballerina, Beryl Grey.

Transmission increased from 2 to 4 nights a week in July

Alma Johnson became first female TV presenter in August

TV License Fee introduced and cost £4 per year, the equivalent of $159.25 in 2010.

The Bell 21” TV Consolette sold for £149.10 (Equivalent cost in 2010 of $5,935)


Advertising introduced on TV to off-set costs. Ads could only play Tuesday – Thursday and Saturday (April).

Christchurch TV channel CHTV3 began broadcasting (1st of June)

Wellington TV channel WNTV1 began broadcasting (1st of July)


Daily news bulletins began (March)

NZ Broadcasting Corporation established by legislation that puts broadcasting in public control.  (April)

NZBC assumes responsibility for 35 radio stations and 4 TV stations around the country.

Dunedin TV channel DNTV2 began broadcasting (July)

All 4 TV stations were allowed to broadcast 35 hours a week (Oct)


The Queen opened NZ Parliament and the event was broadcast live from Wellington.

The Wellington channel produces the first television play called All Earth to Love

TV was used by politicians in the lead up to the November General Election.  Two hours of pre-recorded speeches were broadcast on the 4 regional television stations.

But most politicians appeared stiff and uncomfortable in front of the camera, and the telecasts were described as ‘animated waxworks’

The first programme named Close Up debuts with interviewer Ian Johnstone


Coronation Street first screens (May)

Increasing pressure for extended coverage prompts NZBC to license community groups so they could build and operate their own TV translators to receive, boost and re-transmit the signal to their local areas

Peter Snell won two gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics.  The games spark a boom in sales of TVs.  (Oct)

NZBC establishes a Maori programme section

275,000 TV license holders in NZ. (Nov)

Annual income from radio and TV licenses exceeds £5,000,000, more than £250,000 being paid in taxation.  (Equivalent collection today of $175 million)  


License Fee data shows nearly 50% of households have TVs.

305,410 licensed sets across NZ, 1/3 of them in Auckland. (Feb)

The 4 stations broadcast seven nights a week – a total of 50 hours


Country Calendar screens for the first time (March).

C’mon debuts, filmed in front of a live audience and hosted by Peter Sinclair (Nov).

Compass episode on the change to Decimal Currency banned. Compass producer, Gordon Bick resigns over it.

NZBC decides to allow journalists to fully investigate political issues, a decision that significantly changed current affairs in NZ. 


The Town and Around Show tops the ratings


Current Affairs show ‘Gallery’ debuts

A new season of Compass begins.  The first episode features an interview with the Duke of Edinburgh by Ian Cross and David Beatson

Wellington TV captures the Wahine Disaster on film and the coverage wins an international news award


Microwave link created to form the first network to broadcast pictures of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.  1.5 million viewers tuned in for the broadcast (July).

Political advertising aired on TV in the lead up to the election.

Network News begins with Bill Toft, Philip Sherry, Dougal Stevenson and Stewart MacPherson alternating as newsreaders.

First networked bulletin read by Dougal Stevenson at 7:35pm on 3rd of November from Wellington.

Political debates and election covered widely on TV (Nov) 

Dr Brian Edwards wins inaugural Feltex TV Award for interview with surgeon who performed first heart transplant, Dr Christiaan Barnard.


First satellite established that links NZ to world

Current Affairs programme, Survey debuts replacing Compass and achieves top ratings

Melbourne Cup Race is first event to be broadcast via satellite (Nov).


First live All Black test broadcast – NZ vs Australia (Sept).

Playschool debuts, runs for 80 episodes.

Central Otago, the West Coast and the central North Island finally get TV reception. 


Colour TV arrives and license for it costs $35, the equivalent of $361.19 today.

First colour broadcast on Halloween by continuity announcer, Marama Martin wearing a purple dress (photo attached)

The marriage of H.R.H Princess Anne to Captain Mark Philips broadcast in colour

600,000 viewers watch direct telecasting of FA Cup Final, Leeds vs Sunderland

Keith Quinn does his first rugby test commentary for TV, England v All Blacks at Eden Park.

Fred Dagg debuts with John Clarke

It’s in the Bag debuts on TV (Oct)


Coverage of Christchurch Commonwealth Games is the largest undertaking ever for NZBC (Jan-Feb)

Network didn’t have enough equipment to broadcast the entire games in colour so everything but swimming, track & field and boxing was in black & white.

Muhammad Ali – George Foreman fight gathers an afternoon audience of 880,000.

Spot On debuts

Advertising is allowed on Fridays

The South Tonight debuts with Rodney Bryant and Bryan Allpress


NZBC dismantled and re-established as TV One, TV Two & Radio NZ

Avalon opens in April, the Lower Hutt television centre is the biggest and most technically advanced facility in the country. It cost $10 million to build the equivalent of $160 million in 2009.

Close to Home debuts (May)

Jennie Goodwin becomes first woman in the Commonwealth to anchor a prime time network news programme

TV Two begins broadcasting in November and airs first Telethon a week later

First telethon raises $593,878 for St John Ambulance


The newly elected National Government decides to merge all broadcasting services, including radio back into one corporation a year after it was split.  The new model is called BCNZ.

Radio with Pictures debuts in September and runs for 10 years – hosts include Barry Jenkins, Karyn Hay, Phil O’Brien and Dick Driver

Telethon ’76 raised $1.6 million for the Child Health Foundation

Ian Johnstone becomes the first NZ television reporter to visit South Africa and interviewed Desmond Tutu, journalist Donald Woods and Prime Minister John Vorster.  South Africa – the Black Future won Johnstone a Feltex Award.

Nice One Stu debuts with Stu Dennison as the naughty schoolboy poking fun at straight-laced sidekick, Roger Gascoigne.


First episode of Fair Go screens (April) and is favourably received

Close To Home attracting nearly 1 million viewers every episode and by 1977 was NZ’s longest running drama production

Spot On wins award for best children’s show

Telethon ‘77 raised $2,005,750 for the Mental Health Foundation

The Governor, The God Boy and Richard Pearse are 3 of several programmes sold to overseas television networks.

Stu Dennison’s programme ‘Nice One Stu’ on TV One and Andrew Shaw’s programme ‘Hey Hey It’s Andy” on TV Two compete for the younger audience.

Stu and Andrew still work for TVNZ, Stu is Deputy Head of Sport and Andrew is General Manager of Commissioning, Production & Acquisitions.

Dateline Monday debuts and investigates the controversial pesticide 2-4-5-T

A Week of It debuts, the satirical look at NZ political issues runs until 1979


Telethon ‘78 raised $3 million for the Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation

Mastermind BBC invites Mastermind NZ to take part in an international programme


95% of homes in NZ have a television

Close To Home clocks up its 500th episode

Bill Ralston joins TV2 as a reporter

Gordon Harcourt makes his debut as a 9 year old child actor on Close to Home playing Eddie (today he co-presents Fair Go with Ali Mau & Kevin Milne.)

TV2’s Sport screens an exclusive 90 min interview on Muhammad Ali

Telethon ‘79 raises $2, 767,351 for the Year of The Child


TVNZ was established, with the two previously competing channels becoming part of a single organisation.

The National newsroom was transferred from Avalon to Auckland (Feb).

Judy Bailey & John Hawkesby begin co-presenting regional news show, Top Half

Main news anchor Dougal Stevenson resigns electing to stay in Wellington instead of moving to Auckland.

Trial starts of News in Maori

Angela d’Audney presents Kaleidoscope

More than 100 documentaries are completed in 1980 and the bulk screen on programmes ‘Contact’ and ‘Look Out’

Island of Strange Noises wins a silver prize at the New York Film Festival – part of the Natural History film series The Wild South

Radio with Pictures moves to TV One with new frontman Phil O’Brien

Miss NZ/Miss Universe debuts in 1980 and runs for 8 years


Mark Sainsbury starts work as a researcher for current affairs show, Close Up (the first current affairs show with that name)

Nine films are screened in one week in a NZ feature film festival

What Now debuts and still screens on TV2.  It has had a long roll-call of presenters including Steve Parr, Danny Watson, Simon Barnett, Jason Gunn, Michelle A’Court, Tamati Coffey and Antonia Prebble.

Telethon ‘81 raises $5 million for the International Year of Disabled Persons 


Beauty and The Beast does its 1500th episode in front of a live audience in the James Hay Theatre, Christchurch

Private TV makes a brief foray into the market, when in June Northern TV (owned by a consortium of newspapers led by the NZ Herald) went to air with a one hour magazine style programme called ‘Good Morning’. It survived for one year. 


Whai Ngata and Derek Fox set up Te Karere, the first Māori news programme (Feb).  It is still broadcast today on TV ONE at 4pm and repeated on TVNZ 7.

Close To Home comes to an end after 8 years of almost continuous programming

Telethon ‘83 raises $4.5 million in aid of the NZ Family Trust


Gallipoli screens, an historical documentary about NZ’s involvement in the WWI campaign

Geoff Steven’s hour long documentary, Pacific Tattoo airs with Peter Fonda doing the narration

Malcolm Hall produces a series that features kiwis doing unconventional things, called The Pacemakers

Kevin Milne joins Fair Go as a reporter

Karyn Hay began presenting Radio with Pictures and copped a lot of flak for her kiwi accent. 


NZ television celebrates 25 years on-air.

Research shows 7out of the 10 most popular programmes of 1984 were locally made shows including the 6.30 News, McPhail & Gadsby, Miss NZ, Decision ’84, the rugby tests against Australia and the Olympics.

TVNZ HQ moved from Wellington to Auckland


State-Owned Enterprises Act requires SOEs to be run as commercial businesses

Judy Bailey and Neil Billington co-present revamped 6pm Network News

Modelling competition, Revlon Face of the 80s debuts


TVNZ host broadcaster for inaugural Rugby World Cup

Gloss debuts

Paul Henry debuts on NZ television as host of the game show, Every Second Counts. It runs until 1989.

Dougal Stevenson presents the Krypton Factor, a game show where contestants compete against each other in a variety of physical and mental challenges


TVNZ braced itself for the introduction of TV3 by securing rights to many popular overseas programmes, cancelling Channel 2 news to concentrate news resources on Channel One and locking-in sporting rights.

TVNZ won the rights to the 1992 Olympics.

ONE News moves to 6pm from 6:30pm

Jim Hickey begins presenting weather on TVNZ after many small acting parts in Gloss, Mortimer’s Patch and time working on Country Calendar.


Paul Holmes hits the screen with Holmes following the 6pm news (April).

Advertising allowed to run 24/7 except for Sunday mornings and public holidays.

Bernadine Oliver-Kerby gets her first job in television presenting youth show, ‘Life in the Fridge’

Broadcasting Act removes restrictions on entry to broadcasting for private companies including the ability to operate cable TV, direct satellite broadcasting and UHF frequencies (July).

Journalist, Cathy Campbell becomes the first woman to present her own sports show, Mobil Sports Night (Sept).

TV 3 goes to air five months late on November 27 just as viewership reduces over summer and TVNZ gears up to broadcast the 1990 Commonwealth games in Auckland. 


TVNZ host broadcaster for The Commonwealth Games in Auckland.

Wheel of Fortune debuts

Introduction of NZ’s first pay TV service, Sky Television launched three channels.

TV 3 goes into receivership


Shortland Street debuts on May 25th

TVNZ became an independent satellite operator providing the company with one of the most sophisticated satellites networks in the world. 


Yachting reporter, Martin Tasker joins TVNZ


End of the Goodnight Kiwi TV2 begins broadcasting 24/7

Thingee’s eye pops out during a recording of The Son of a Gunn Show

Asia Downunder debuts

Simon Dallow gets his first job in broadcasting as a news presenter on TV2’s Newsnight

Karen Olsen begins presenting weather on TV ONE

Alison Mau starts begins presenting Eye Witness News


ONE News is extended to an hour per night

The Holmes Show moves to 7pm

Sports Café debuts on Sky TV


Tonight presenter, Greg Boyed gets first start in television working for Auckland regional station, ATV.


Neil Roberts re-joins TVNZ as Head of Television.

Breakfast debuts on TV ONE with Alison Mau and Mike Hosking presenting and Liz Gunn reading the news.

Canadian Company, CanWest increases ownership from 20% to 100% of TV3

CanWest launch C4 youth channel

TVNZ sells 80% of the Dunedin based Natural History Unit to Fox TV Studios. As NHNZ it would become one of the world’s leading producers of factual programmes.  


Wendy Petrie gets her first job in television, writing and presenting newsbreaks for TV3

Pippa Wetzell starts in the TVNZ newsroom as the overnight reporter on the assignments desk.

Neil Roberts dies of cancer (Nov).


Public Broadcasting fee phased out

TVNZ sells a number of assets that were not essential to core business including shareholding in Sky TV.

APEC Summit held in Auckland and became NZ’s biggest news event to be covered by TVNZ. 


TV ONE & TV2 transmitted on Sky TV’s digital platform

TVNZ runs uninterrupted coverage of September 11 terrorism attacks for 36 hours

Reality police show, Motorway Patrol debuts

TVNZ launches


NZ Television Archive opens in Lower Hutt

Reality TV police show, Police 10-7 debuts presented by retired Detective Inspector, Graham Bell


TVNZ becomes Crowned Owned Company

TVNZ Charter officially adopted

TVNZ’s advertising revenue passes $300 million for the first time

Bill Ralston becomes TVNZ’s Head of News & Current Affairs (July).

Jim Mora presents new feel-good show Mucking-In.

Sports Café moves from Sky TV to TV2


Maori Television begins broadcasting in March

TV2’s kids show Studio 2 debuts (March)

Tamati Coffey gets his first job in television as a presenter on What Now


Judy Bailey leaves TVNZ after presenting the news for 18 years

Paul Holmes leaves TVNZ for a new rival current affairs show on Prime.

Flagship TV ONE programme Dancing with the Stars debuts drawing audiences of 700,000 each episode.  2005 series won by former rugby player, Norm Hewitt

Debut of Attitude, a series that profiles the issues and interests of people living with a disability with a strong thread of advocacy journalism

Sports Café canned after celebrity drug scandal involving regular presenter Marc Ellis


Simon Dallow & Wendy Petrie begin co-presenting ONE News at 6pm in January.


Bill Ralston resigns from TVNZ as head of News & Current Affairs (Jan).

TVNZ ondemand launched in March

Australian newsman Anthony Flannery takes over from Ralston as head of News & Current Affairs in May.

Simon Dallow voted sexiest man on TV for the sixth year in a row as well as best news presenter in the Best On The Box Awards.

Former Silver Fern, Jenny May Coffin starts working for TV ONE Sport.

TVNZ 6 begins broadcasting on the Freeview Platform in September.


TVNZ 7 begins broadcasting on the Freeview Platform in March.

In July Tony Veitch resigns from his role as the main sports anchor for ONE News after allegations that he physically assaulted a former partner.

In August launches award winning Beijing Olympics site and four separate live streams during the event – a first for NZ. relaunches news platform in December. 


Paul Holmes returns to TVNZ as co-interviewer with Guyon Espiner on TV ONE’s award winning political show Q+A (March). launches entertainment platform in May.

TVNZ 6 & TVNZ 7 are added to the Sky platform (July)

TVNZ News and Current Affairs wins 11 of the 12 Qantas Awards in the news section. launches iphone application – considered one of the best iphone apps in the world.


NZ series of The Apprentice debuts fronted by controversial Wellington property developer, Terry Serepisos and won by contestant Thomas Ben.

Inaugural series of Masterchef NZ debuts with Christchurch schoolteacher, Brett McGregor taking the first title.

TVNZ commission second series of Masterchef NZ after a successful first series and outstanding ratings.

Alison Mau joins a revamped Fair Go to co-present with Kevin Milne and Gordon Harcourt.

TVNZ & Sony partner to put TVNZ ondemand on PS3 – the first commercial television broadcaster in the world to be on the PS3.

TVNZ launches a new channel on Sky TV’s pay platform that will feature 100% local content called Heartland.

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  • cameragod


    Experimental closed-circuit demonstration broadcasts began on the proviso that they did not include anything that could be classified as ‘entertainment’

    Well, no change in TV since then is there. 🙂

  • bobscoffee


    TVNZ sells a number of assets that were not essential to core business including shareholding in Sky TV.

    Stupidest decision made?

  • cameragod

    Oh paying for Julian Mounter to bring his yacht over from the UK and then allowing him to move TVNZ HQ from Wellington to Auckland just because he preferred the yachting scene up there ranks as fairly stupid.

  • aaronimpact


    Modelling competition, Revlon Face of the 80s debuts

    I would like to know a little more about this and any famous models that entered it.

  • D-i-r

    There is no mention of Bill Southgate about the first Tv frontman TV one ever had??

  • Blair

    This timeline seems very biased towards TVNZ. The year Wheel of Fortune started was actually 1991 and while TVNZ starting broadcasting 1 hour of news in 1995 it is worth noting TV3 started their 1 hour of news 4 years earlier in 1991.