NZ TV turns 50 today

New Zealand’s first television test programmes were broadcast 50 years ago today. 

 Broadcasting Minister Jonathon Coleman said it started very simply with just two hours broadcast a week and only in Auckland.

“There was no money for new programmes, so in addition to test patterns, Auckland viewers enjoyed clips from old National Film Unit newsreels and whatever free content the then New Zealand Broadcasting Service could beg, borrow or steal.”

These early experiments continued successfully, and on 28 January 1960 the government announced that it had decided to introduce television as an entertainment medium to New Zealand.

I remember stopping outside shops to watch the televisions which were set up in the windows a few years later.

Our neighbours had a TV and they invited my brothers and me to watch it on weekend evenings. Favourite programmes were Walt Disney, Lassie, Mr Ed, Flipper, Bonanza and Perry Mason. Those were all from the USA, I must have been a bit older before I was allowed to watch British programmes like The Avengers.

Local shows included Its in the Bag with Selwyn Toogood, Happen Inn and C’mon with Pete Sinclair.

I’m not sure if The South Tonight was broadcasting then or if that came later.

Our family got a TV set when I was about 14. It broadcast in black and white and introduced us to All Gas and Gaiters, A Family at War,  Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Monty Pythons Flying Circus.

Coleman points out there have been major changes in televison in the last 50 years.

“I think it would be fair to say that the average television viewer in 1959 would be utterly amazed by the quantity, quality, range and accessibility of the content New Zealanders of the 21st century take for granted.  Today we can watch high definition, colour programmes across multiple channels, both free-to-air and pay, 24 hours a day.  We can ‘time-shift’ to watch content when it suits us, skip advertisements, pause to let the cat out, mute the boring bits, add captions, and pre-record all our favourite programmes at the push of a button.”

Quantity, range, and accessibility have definitely improved but I’m not sure about the quality, especially of local programmes.

Is that because current affairs programmes like Gallery and satire like McPhail and Gadsby  were really better than anything we get today – or has hindsight improved my memory of the viewing?

UPDATE: Rob has a video of McPahil & Gadsby in the comments so we can judge for ourselves if distance has led enchantment to viewing memories.

4 Responses to NZ TV turns 50 today

  1. PaulL says:

    I suspect a bit to do with the fallibility of hindsight. You might try watching some of those old shows to see. They reflect their times – so people might be more erudite, but also probably more bigoted, and more inclined to go for the assumed truth rather than digging.

    Our current shows reflect our times – shallow sometimes, but also eclectic and interesting. Poorly edited, and showing poor logic skills. But more inclusive and less inclined to reflect the narrow certainties of a small proportion of the population.


  2. Rob Hosking says:

    Well, judge for yourself… found this on Youtube when looking for today’s Kiwi music clip:


  3. Neil says:

    Homepaddock one has to say that things of our youth seem to become more beloved in our views as we age.
    The worst programme I have seen for aging is The Avengers, which I thoroughly enjoyed in my youth.
    Emma Peel’s short dresses seem very dated as with Steed’s stiff upper lip..
    Our current affairs programmes were far better, despite left wing Labour interviewers like Brian Edwards and David Excel. Today Current Affairs TV is a disgrace – nothing except Sunday at 9.00 when a lot of people are still in bed.


  4. Rob Hosking says:

    A year or so back Blerta was re-screened on one of the Sky Channels.

    The programme, which was done around 1974-5, I think, has passed into legend as riotously funny anarchic humour.

    I’ve got to say I found it a huge disappointment. Mostly silly sub-Monty Python stuff (and I like the Pythons, at their best). Very derivative and not funny.

    I chuckled once.


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