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.