50 Years of TV

7:30pm Saturday, August 7 on Prime

Documentary Series

Taonga TV

The growth of Maori television reflects the battle of Maori for full recognition and participation in New Zealand society. The success of Maori television restores a sense of vision to the medium.

7:30pm Saturday, July 31 on Prime

Documentary Series


From the Kiwi accent to the paintings of Rita Angus and from apricot orchards in Central Otago to the mountains of Borneo, television has helped develop a sense of what it means to be a New Zealander.

7:30pm Saturday, July 24 on Prime

Documentary Series

Telling Stories

Drama has been the source of some of television’s greatest moments and some of its most painful. New Zealand drama and comedy have come a long way in the last 50 years.

7:30pm Saturday, July 17 on Prime

Documentary Series

Winners & Losers

Television and sport were made for each other, but the relationship had a slow start. Tonight we trace the growth of televised sport from the earliest, delayed news clips to today’s live broadcasts.

7:30pm Saturday, July 10 on Prime

Documentary Series

Let Us Entertain You

Tonight’s your chance to catch up on episode three as Prime examines how New Zealand television’s ability to amuse and divert has been at the heart of its success.

Kiwis have named the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York to be the biggest news event of the past 50 years in a TVNZ poll.

Running in conjunction with TVNZ’s celebration of 50 Years of Television News last night, the poll asked kiwis to vote for the news item they deemed to be the biggest in the 50 years of television in NZ.

The 9/11 attacks took the top spot with the death of Princess Diana in 1997 placing second.

Five New Zealand events made the top 10 with the Wahine ferry disaster in 1968 placing fourth, the 1979 Mt Erebus crash fifth, Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup win in 1995 coming sixth, the 1981 Springbok tour ninth followed by the Aramoana shootings in 1990 rounding out the Top 10.

Voted third overall was The 1969 Moon landing, with JFK’s assassination in 1963 seventh and The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 eighth.

Source: NZ Herald

Despite last week’s TVNZ 50 Years special copping such a beating in the media following its screening, the network is planning another celebration special for late June.

TVNZ is piling together a celebration to mark the past 50 years of news and current affairs television in this country in spite of the fact last week’s show was savaged by television fans and critics.

Of course TVNZ are unfazed by the scorn, because the special managed to draw a massive audience and generated a bundle of advertising revenue for them.

The upcoming news special was initially vetoed by the network when planning the year’s celebrations but in the wake of the ratings hit last week TVNZ may well be simply looking to cash in a second time around.

The two-hour show is planned for 8.30pm on June 27, the same date and time Prime are marking their 50 Years celebrations.

So the Prime special, conceived more than a year ago, will now be going head to head with a TVNZ celebration knocked-up in a matter of weeks.

Prime programmer Karen Bieleski is unfazed however, laughing at TV One’s choice of time and calling it ridiculous.

Source: NZ Herald

This article was originally written in 2006 for a journalism course I was on. However, in light of the 50 years of television celebtrations, I think it is quite relevant. It waxes nostalgic about the past and wonders whether more channels is actually a good or bad thing.

In a recent press announcement [2006], a joint venture between the government, TVNZ and Can West has been revealed. Each will contribute $25 million dollars towards a digital satellite, which will transmit up to 18 channels from as soon as early next year. The net result of this will be that TVNZ and Can West will have an additional 4 channels to add to their 2 existing ones, and a third 6 channels will be distributed by BCL as they see fit, some of which they have in fact already signed to other existing channels including Maori TV and the TAB network.


So, what will be broadcast on the new channels acquired by TVNZ and Can West? Neither company wants to reveal anything at this stage as it is considered to be “commercial-sensitive” information; however, one clue from TVNZ is that high-quality programs often relegated to late-night slots for whatever reason can now be shown in prime time. Another hint is that some news and/or current affairs shows will be repeated more than once a day. A possible 24-hour local news channel is foreseen and also easier access to the New Zealand film & TV archives – some kind of interactive pay-per-view perhaps.


This all sounds very exciting and one presenter during the press announcement even pointed out how this was the biggest thing since the implementation of colour TV, though personally the introduction of the second channel seems closer to the mark for me. It depends on whether you are looking at it from the point of view of higher quality picture (which digital is) or more choice (which digital also is).


But here’s the problem for me – do we really need MORE channels – or LESS?


This is my concern. In the last several years there has been the emergence of one of many problems among young people – something called ADS. No, I don’t means as in TV ADS though that’s a problem too, but I mean Attention Deficit Syndrome.


You see, many people have problems focusing more than one thing at a time anymore. And I have a theory about this – it’s the overload of choice we now have. Time is a limited resource and I think there is a subconscious, or even conscious, fear that, no matter what we are doing (or in this case watching), there may be something better going on somewhere else. Therefore, there is this confusion in the mind whether or not what we are doing at any given moment is perhaps the best and most enjoyable thing we could be doing.


And now, as a background to what I am trying to say, here is a little history about New Zealand television from my perspective.


Back in the 60s (when I was growing up), choice was pretty simple. We had just one TV channel, in black & white, which went from 5pm to 11pm. And it was broadcast locally – the Christchurch channel was called CHTV-3. (The others were WNTV-1, AKTV-2 and DNTV-2 – you figure it out). When the programs arrived in New Zealand, we weren’t the first to see the episodes. They were shown in Wellington, and then shipped up to Auckland for the following week, then they were shown here, and finally in poor old Dunedin who got them last. One cool thing was, when you looked at the TV listings in The Listener (The Listener had exclusive rights to TV listings at that time – no other weekly publication could publish them) you could see what episodes were coming up in the following weeks by looking at the Auckland and Wellington listings.


Let me emphasise – it was broadcast locally (there was no network), and there were no video recorders so we had to watch everything live. And guess what? We enjoyed what we watched. We were focused. We relished the experience. We were not distracted, even by the ads.


But, human nature being what it is, we wanted more.


We wanted colour. And we got it. And, once the novelty wore off, and over the years, with hindsight, some of us realised there was something about the surrealness of black and white which some how seemed to make programs more absorbing than the too-realistic colour.


We wanted a network. We needed a network. I mean, you’ve got to pity, for instance, the poor local businessman who regularly has to travel around the country, and who is continually confused and confounded about which episode he is watching of his favourite program while in his hotel room– he sees some more than once and misses others. So that was solved. Now everyone saw the same episodes at the same time. Fine. Except…slowly we noticed the wonderful local fun and feel we had begin to evaporate, particularly as “cost cutting” and efficiency meant any local content (including local news) dissolved over time. I remember one Sunday night in the mid-seventies when the network was accidentally knocked out for a few hours and they had to hastily play some programs they had on hand locally. TV was suddenly fun again, an adventure, and a gentle reminder of just what we were beginning to miss. The network came back on all too quickly, cutting off an old episode of The Jack Benny Show in mid-stream; I never did see the end of it and that program has never been played since. Whatever was being played on the network that night was simply nowhere near as interesting.


Then we wanted a second channel. Damn it! We needed a second channel. We needed to watch something else when a boring program came on. That made sense didn’t it. And after dithering around for years (a second channel was first touted in the early 60s) and changing the concept more than once (originally it was going to be a private channel run by Gordon Dryden but then the government changed hands and came up with a “competitive but complementary” concept), we finally got it in mid ‘75. And thus we entered what is now considered the golden years of NZ television, as there was a sudden surge of local production and it was exciting for a little while until the government interfered and killed most the fun by turning it into tweedledum and tweedledee, otherwise known as TVNZ. This was actually a politically motivated decision by the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Muldoon, who was, to be perfectly frank, intimidated and fearful of two competing news networks which might actually be bold enough to question some of the government’s policies.


So naturally we wanted a third channel. Of course we wanted a third channel. We had to have a third channel. And, once again, the government dithered around for years, finally setting up a tribunal, which then processed applications. The application process was open to anyone, not just private interests, so that TVNZ itself could apply for the third channel – and did of course. This process included the applicators having to “prove” that they “deserved” the TV licence by showing the kind of programs they would have, even to show specific schedules; this normally commercially sensitive information created the ludicrous situation of giving TVNZ the extremely unfair advantage of knowing what the competition was about and had plenty of time to counteract what was coming, which included stealing the best ideas naturally. The process was further complicated by applicants being allowed to object to other applications, which of course, just about everyone did to everyone else, causing horrendous delays while TVNZ continued to reshape it’s channels for the impending TV war which included buying up an almost insurmountable amount of programs just so the competition couldn’t get them; this mountain which would be virtually impossible to find the time to air became legendary amongst the corridors of broadcasting personnel and thus New Zealand was robbed of some presumably high quality viewing. No doubt the TVNZ board spent most the time at their meetings during this era rolling on the floor with laughter.


This reshaping of TVNZ came in the main, from the completely unnecessary import of a man called Julian Mounter. I cannot think of someone who did more damage to the personal identity of New Zealand television than this man. He is the biggest waste of space to New Zealand that we have ever had. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a go at him as a person; he’s probably quite a success in his own country, but he just wasn’t suited for New Zealand. He was completely out of touch with the New Zealand viewers and our unique tastes, for having already lost some regional identity under networking, we now began to lose our national identity – that is, programming decisions based on overseas trends. We didn’t need overseas trends dammit – we had our own. But they have inundated us with these types of schedules ever since and beaten us down. They’ve forced overseas trends upon us until a new generation (that’s most of you) rises that knows no other trend. They’ve changed the trend to that of overseas behaviour deliberately.


Anyway, in light of all this, poor TV3 didn’t stand a chance. With all the good programming monopolised by TVNZ, and horrendous delays including ones of their own before transmission finally began which probably cost them a fortune, plus, in fairness to TVNZ, bad programming decisions on TV3’s part including not gauging the average New Zealand viewer themselves by also relying on overseas trend (and the idea of head to head news at that early stage was also a bad move), they went into receivership within five months. It was a disaster. It took them years to recover.


And to add salt to TV3’s wounds, government policy changed. They suddenly announced an auction of frequencies that would be sold to the highest bidder. I mean, good grief! Why didn’t they do that about five years beforehand and save TV3 and others a lot of time, money and tribulation through the tribunal process?


Anyway, here’s my point. The innocence has been lost. The fun has been lost. The simplicity and the focus have been lost. Sometimes I think it would’ve been better if they’d simply kept the old NZBC channel as it was and maybe created another in the same mould. But they mistakenly felt it necessary to change…and change…and change. I think I’d like to go back in a time machine to about 1967 and just watch a TV for a while, viewing of which would include some “lost” TV shows and episodes that have been permanently destroyed from the archives, never to be seen again.


And so to the present. Now we have several channels, including some regional ones though I have to say it doesn’t feel the same somehow. Viewership is fractured. Our attention is fractured. It’s harder to concentrate on one thing at a time, don’t you think? And the programs that we watch, do we enjoy them the same? Do we still live “in the moment” of the current program or is a part of us impatiently waiting for the next one, or are concerned we might be missing something better on another channel? Which brings us back to Attention Deficit Syndrome.


So tell me. Do you suffer from ADS? Do you feel overloaded with choice? Do you have trouble concentrating on one thing at a time? Will the advent of Freeview digital make things worse, or better, or make no real difference at all? Let us know.


Author: Rusty Viewer

Dated: June 2006



TVNZ obviously don’t know how to celebrate. After the atrocious Shortland St celebration, they decided to celebrate 50 years of NZ TV with some game show. Jason Gunn wasn’t too bad, but too much time was wasted on the panel trying to (and failing miserably) to answer questions. David Fane couldn’t seem to answer anything. It didn’t seem as though Matt Gibb, Tamati or Jordan could remember anything either.

What I REALLY enjoyed was seeing clips of the old shows. We saw little of that for the two hours the show was screening.

The 50 Years of TV documentary series Prime is showing is what TVNZ really should have been screening to commemorate 50 years of TV. I’d even watch one hour of highlights throughout the past 50 years than two hours of this.

anyone has see that tvnz at 50 ad with the Cheers theme was tvnz people