Kiwi TV as we once knew it – Part 4

“There’s nothing to watch on TV,” many people moan. And so it may be timely to remember what TVNZ used to be:

Paul Holmes: a victim of his own fame.

Jennie Goodwin: The first female network newsreader.

Tina Carline: The weather girl whose pronunciation of Taupo nearly started World War Three!

Brian Edwards: intelligent, provocative and one of few natural on-screen personalities.

Dougal Stevenson: Lost to the Network audience when News moved to Auckland, signalling the demise of Avalon.

Bernie Allen: the brilliant musical director behind scores of TV Entertainment shows…..and in passing, “Nice One Stu”, ”Thingee” and the mercurial Jason Gunn, ”Telethon”, the Goodnight Kiwi and never to  be forgotten “Town and Around” the epitome of popular regional programming.

I end my nostalgic journey through television as it once was, by describing a programme the like of which sadly, we may never see again. It reflects the strength of what used to be  – and points to what is lacking today.

One memorable moment began as a blank sheet of paper in Director General Julian Mounter’s office with a brief to me which read: ‘pull the rug out from under TV3’s launch week’.

The result: “A Night of a Thousand Stars” directed by Malcolm Kemp with technical direction by Ian Ingley. It was fronted by the hugely talented John Hawkesby assisted by Angela D’Audney.

At the end of that highly entertaining night, TVNZ presented a cheque for $125,000 launching the Variety Club ( believed to be the biggest children’s charity in the world).

Every TVNZ on-camera personality, and a swag of overseas  TV stars including Ernie Wise, Gordon Kaye (“Allo Allo”) Andrew Sachs (“Fawlty Towers”) Jimmy Webb (composer  of “By the time I get to Phoenix”) took part in the circus setting to sing, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”.

I look back fondly to the success of that programme, and with some little irony recall its title and the Finale song comparing it to TVNZ 25 years later.

I doubt that anyone is likely to take notice of my ramblings but for a free-to-air TVNZ to survive, you might just agree with these final points:

1  Know your audience: Stop patronising viewers constantly telling us what we should watch and when to watch it!

2   Seek presenters who put the audience first – not their egos.

3   Let’s have programmes that say proudly we are New Zealand, not some pale imitation of an overseas commercial  network.

4   Accept that creativity does not start and end in Auckland.

The environment for television as we once knew it no longer exists: why then do we try to compete against numerous overseas reality programmes?

Perhaps they are there to serve advertisers not viewers.  It might also explain why  many free-to air-viewers are deserting the medium.

But there’s hope to be had in digital and using our creativity to produce programmes to minorities and mass viewership –  if the content is refreshing, original, and homegrown.

My hope is that all of these factors will be taken into account as we close this chapter of television…

Share this:
Chris Bourn

Chris joined WNTV1 as a Presentation Officer 1964 and became the channel’s first Sports Producer. He went on to become Entertainment Producer and Director and then for 12 years was Head of Presentation, Promotion and Publicity. Other positions included Head of Entertainment, and Director of Opera in the Park, Christmas in the Park and Symphony in the Park for 20 years. Chris retired in 2002, and was awarded the Golden Disc from the NZ Recording Industry for services to Entertainment, and the NBOA Award for service to Television.