In 1962 I returned to NZ after two years O.E. to being constantly confronted with the question, “did you know we now have Television?”
Standing on the fourth-floor balcony of Tūranga, Christchurch’s recently opened library sited on Cathedral Square, I gazed down onto the sagging ruin that is the post-earthquake Christchurch Cathedral. From this angle the decision to restore makes even less sense than it did three years ago when I viewed the wreckage from behind a ground level wire-mesh safety fence.
It will seem mean to those who think the demise of TV3 is a shame, but I’m glad it’s gone and gladder still to see the beginning of the end of all television as we have come to know it. The dying distorted remnants of what was once an entertaining, informative and artistic public service has had its day after far too many years in expelling noisy, lingering death throes.
First I must declare that I’m involved with Better Public Media, so it is very apparent what I want from television in New Zealand.
But I also want more for other sectors of the media, for I have drifted away from mainstream (linear, scheduled) television and have joined the Netflix generation. When I drift back to Television New Zealand or TV3, these channels seem like foreign places, where narratives are jarringly interrupted by extended breaks of increasingly banal adverts.
The Lost Generation
‘There’s a generation of Kiwis who have grown up not knowing what public service television is’, says the Better Public Media Trust on its website. And it goes on to list the programming casualties lost in the shifting battlefields of broadcasting over the past 50 years:
A framework of Koromiko tied together with rope and wire, now in Canterbury Museum, recalls the way that shipwrecked sailors paddled to the main (sub-antarctic) Auckland Island to await rescue in 1907. The four-masted barque, The Dundonald struck Disappointment Island on March 7, 1907 and the survivors struggled ashore from her top masts.
When pioneer Scottish settlers in the nineteenth century arrived in the southern part of New Zealand, the terrain was a challenge – but they had brought their dogs. In the area known as the Mackenzie country (where part of The Lord of the Rings was filmed over a hundred years later), the mountainous plateau might have remained unfarmed had it not been for the hard work of the shepherds and their tireless dogs.