Country Calendar

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New Zealand TV viewers will be treated to documentaries and factual programmes on issues as diverse as the science of forensics, New Zealand’s obesity problem, housing affordability, bogans, and our social history through DNA following the latest NZ On Air funding decisions.

New Zealand’s longest running TV programme, and the second longest-running show in the world, Country Calendar will be back next year for its 50th year. The programme is frequently the highest rating programme NZ On Air funds, with more than half a million New Zealanders tuning in each Saturday night. Continue reading »

rugby-championshipWatching the rugby championship match between the All Blacks and Wallabies on Saturday night got me thinking.  What percentage of the viewing audience are farmers?  I couldn’t help noticing all the varying farming related advertisements at half time and wondered how many viewers they were actually relevant to.

For many farmers, a game that kicks off at 10:10pm is well past their bed time.  With cows to milk before the sun comes up, many of them would be tucked up in their beds I would have thought.  Perhaps I am wrong but I just don’t see it.

374,100 tuned in to watch the All Blacks play, and the delayed coverage drew another 176,080 even later on Prime.  Certainly not the highest rating test match we’ve seen.  How many of those were farmers and how many of them were townies? Continue reading »

A new documentary series, Golden Mozzies, looking at seven Māori families living on Australia’s Gold Coast, leads a wide range of New Zealand stories supported by NZ On Air in its latest funding round.

The TV3 series will explore emigration from a Māori perspective and how Tikanga Māori supports them as they adapt to life in a new country.

“NZ On Air’s August funding round is an important one because it helps shape the TV schedules for 2012” said chief executive Jane Wrightson. “More than 75 hours of local stories have been confirmed in this documentary round alone and we hope many different New Zealanders will find programmes to enjoy”, she said.

The 13 NZ On Air documentary investments announced this week include First Crossings, an ambitious five-part series for TV One telling the story of great NZ explorers, from the West Coast to the Chathams, through the exploits of two modern day adventurers.

Operation Hurricane, to screen on Prime, will tell the little-known story of the “splendidly named” New Zealander Gynes Ramsbottom–Isherwood who was awarded the Order of Lenin for his exploits in the Second World War.   

When A City Falls, a feature length project produced and written by Gerard Smyth about life amid the Christchurch quakes and aftermath has also been funded, in partnership with the NZ Film Commission.  It will be shown in cinemas and on TV3.

Current successful programmes haven’t been overlooked in the round with renewed support given to new series of Country Calendar, What’s Really In Our Food, The Politically Incorrect Guide To Grownups, Coasters, Beyond the Darklands, and Missing Pieces.

And more single documentaries and short series will be supported under the contestable banners of both the TV One Docs and and Māori Television’s Pakipumeka strands.

7:00pm Saturday, March 12 on TV One

Hyundai Country Calendar’s first episode for 2011 marks a television milestone – it’s 45 years since the show first went to air.

After walking across thousands of other people’s farms since 1966, this week’s episode creates a first – it turns the camera on one of its own.

For 35 years Frank Torley has been known in rural communities as ‘that bloke from Hyundai Country Calendar’, but he’s found that no matter how many farms you film on, it still doesn’t prepare you for the real thing.

Torley, now consultant producer on Hyundai Country Calendar, farms his own small patch in the heart of the Rangitikei region, close to the farming town of Marton.

When he bought the land it was all in one block, so he had to build new fences. “When I went to the local timber yard and asked for some posts I realised I had no idea what I was doing,” says Torley. “They said, ‘what sort of posts do you want?’ and all I could say was, ’round ones would look nice.'”

When the first episode went to air on 6 March, 1966, front-man Fred Barnes wore a suit, read out information about market prices and conducted an interview with the chairman of the Meat Board, all in the studio. Less than six minutes of the programme, a report on a Central Otago apricot orchard, was filmed in the field.

But when Torley arrived to work on Hyundai Country Calendar ten years later, the programme began to focus on a single topic each episode, going out into the field and putting farmers at the heart of the show. The formula worked so well that it carries on today, although plenty of other things have changed.

Being the subject of the first episode is an odd feeling for Torley, “I’m so used to reassuring other people about this – ‘don’t worry you’ll come across fine’ but it’s a bit different being on the receiving end.”

The sale yards were a natural place for Hyundai Country Calendar to take Torley during filming. “It’s hallowed turf for me. It was where I spent the best part of my youth, and it was right here that I first got offered a job in rural radio.”

Radio lead to television and 35 years later Torley’s broadcasting career is still going strong. “I’ve often said I have the best job in New Zealand. I get to travel the country, see some beautiful places and meet the sort of people we’d all like to mix with. My job’s got it all – and that’s the key to the success of the show, too.” he concludes.

This year’s series will be the first in high definition pictures and to mark the change, the programme will also have new opening titles.