Television in New Zealand

As often happens, a discussion on Twitter has sparked an idea for a blog post about television in NZ. I will stress, I’ve not spent a huge amount of time studying the ins and outs of the industry here, mainly because it is quite complicated, and the position of public service broadcasting in NZ is currently changing quite radically… but this may act as a bit of a guide.

Basic history

(I’ve relied on Wikipedia to confirm a lot of these dates, for my sins – so please don’t rely on them for anything important)

TV started fairly late in NZ – a government owned broadcast network began in 1960, they expanded to a second channel in 1976. Both of these were effectively government owned/run, a la BBC, although they operated under a mixed funding model, with both a licence fee paid by households, and some commercial advertising. They had some limited public service broadcasting requirements, but I am not aware of any defined specifics. These channels are currently known as TV One, and TV2, and operate under the Television New Zealand (TVNZ) banner.

The first privately owned network launched in New Zealand in 1989 (TV3). It had some serious teething issues, being put into receivership in 1990, but continuing to broadcast. Relaxing of investment laws meant that a large foreign investor could be sought, and TV3 has continued broadcast, including expanding to a second channel, initially TV4, then C4.

Pay television launched in New Zealand in 1990 (I think, struggled to find exact year) through the Sky Network. This was initially UHF, but began migration to Digital Satellite transmission in 1997. They shut down their analogue signal early in 2010.

Digital satellite free-to-air television launched in New Zealand in 2007, with an aim of moving towards an analogue switch-off, although slow uptake has delayed this date. Along with the launch of this “Freeview” service, two more state-owned digital channels were launched, TVNZ6 & TVNZ7. These both currently adhere fairly closely to Reithian ideals of Public Service Broadcasting.

The last important change in the NZ television landscape was the launching of the Maori Television Service, which went live in 2004. One key aim was to revitalise the fading language and culture of Maori (the indigenous people of New Zealand). Maori Television features a variety of programming, mainly locally produced, but also screens some international films and documentaries, usually independent, which may have particular interest. Content is broadcast in a mixture of English and Maori, sometimes even within the one programme, in some ways reflecting the speech rhythms of current Maori speakers.

Phew – ok, there’s the basic history of NZ television in a nutshell. I’ll post that, but I hope to follow it up later this afternoon with some commentary on the types of programming we see, especially on programme imports, and even more so about brand formation, and how programming might be positioned differently from internationally…


4 thoughts on “Television in New Zealand

  1. citizen_parable

    Very concise history Mark, and clear. Tiny point, no biggie, but I wouldn’t say that Maori language was in anyway fading my the time MTV was launched. Quite the opposite. I’d say MTV was launched to capitalise, or expand the resurgence of Te Reo Maori and tikanga into the broadcast media. MTV wasn’t so much an exercise in ‘media welfare’, the doors were essentially knocked down by a groundswell of popular demand.

    I would say…


  2. Mark S

    That’s really interesting, I really had exactly the opposite feeling – I was of the impression that the recent groundswell in te reo & tikanga was being put down to MTS (Maori Television Service, just distinguishes it from the US network ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and its subsequent success.

    I might ask some of the people around the office – one of the people in my dept is writing her PhD on MTS in part, so she may have something to say about it.

    • Mark S

      Just had a quick chat with my colleague, to pick her brains – we were both right, in a way.

      Apparently, MTS was the latest in a string of exercises designed to prevent the loss of Maori culture and language, dating right back to the 1960s/70s. Several of these were educational in nature – introducing Maori as an optional course in schools, te kohango reo programmes etc. Iwi radio was also introduced, and finally they were followed by the MTS. So it was introduced in a sense to prevent cultural loss, but it also was following on from an increase in interest in the language and culture propelled by the earlier movements.

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