Chris Harrington began in local television in 1976, reporting and producing current affairs and news. Highlights of his career include award-winning Sunday stories about allegations of police pack rape by Louise Nicholas, and another on treatment of Porirua Hospital inmates. In 1989 he was awarded a QSM for services to journalism. In 2007 Harrington moved into private production and public relations.
Television remains the only game in town, and public relations is a sad shadow. I would go back to television production in the blink of an eye. Chris Harrington
Screening each weekend after TV One's primetime news, Sunday mixes New Zealand stories with reports from overseas. The local contributions have ranged from celebrity interviews, to reports that took months to put together (including award-winning pieces on the 2008 Chinese poisoned milk scandal, and how patients were treated at Porirua Hospital). Over the years, Sunday's roster of journalists has included veterans John Hudson, Janet McIntyre, Ian Sinclair, and current presenter Miriama Kamo. The show has played in both hour and half-hour formats.
In 2000 the Employment Relations Act was passed into law in New Zealand, replacing the Employment Contracts Act. The bill proved controversial: some suggested it placed unfair obligations on employers, while others claimed it restored much-needed rights to workers that had been undermined. This Assignment episode explores both angles. Among them, business owner John Holm argues that he shouldn’t be told how to treat his employees, while union leaders and Alliance Party MP Laila Harré all argue that without the bill, workers will continue to be exploited.
Hour-long prime time current affairs slot Assignment replaced TVNZ's long-running Frontline in 1995, after Frontline had won controversy for a couple of its stories. A number of Frontline veterans moved across to the new series, including Susan Wood, Rod Vaughan, and Rob Harley. Vaughan and Harley would both win local media awards for their Assignment investigations. At the 1996 TV Guide New Zealand Film and Television Awards, Assignment was judged Best News and Current Affairs Programme.
Ten years on from the tumultuous 1984 General Election, this award-winning TVNZ current affairs doco examines the financial and constitutional crisis that resulted from Robert Muldoon’s initial refusal to yield power. Reporter Richard Harman, who conducted pivotal interviews at the time, talks to key players to piece together the events of five remarkable days. They also saw the opening salvoes between David Lange and US Secretary of State George Shultz over nuclear ship visits, and foreshadowed Roger Douglas’ controversial remaking of the NZ economy.
20/20 was a US current affairs format first introduced to NZ on TV3 in 1993, where it screened for a decade. In 2005 it was picked up by TVNZ and it became TV2’s signature current affairs show. One hour-long, it mixed content imported from the US ABC-produced show with award-winning local investigative stories; subjects ranged from infanticide to Nicky Watson. The original host was Louise Wallace, then at TVNZ it was Mirama Kamo, then Sonya Wilson from 2011. In 2014 local content ceased being made for the show, and it shifted to a half-hour late-night slot.
Frontline replaced Close Up as TVNZ’s flagship, primetime current affairs show in 1988. Fronted by Ross Stevens, and made at Avalon at a time when TVNZ management had relocated to Auckland, it produced the controversial 1990 doco For the Public Good which explored the relationship between business and the Labour Government. In the fallout, TVNZ was sued, staff were sacked and the office moved to Auckland. In 1994, a special about the Winebox tax allegations saw Frontline back in the news. Other presenters included Lindsay Perigo, Anita McNaught and Susan Wood.
The nightly Eyewitness News debuted in 1982 having evolved out of TV2’s twice weekly current affairs show of the same name. Screening at 9.30pm, it moved to TV One before being axed in 1990 in favour of a later One News bulletin. Two of the key moments in the political turmoil of 1984 played out in front of its cameras — PM Robert Muldoon’s calling of the snap election and his devaluation interview which sparked an economic and constitutional crisis. Reporter Rod Vaughan also received his infamous bloody nose from Bob Jones while on an Eyewitness story.
80s show Close Up had a similar brief to earlier current affairs show Compass: to present mini-documentaries on topical local issues. Stories in the primetime hour-long slot were wide-ranging, from hard news to human interest pieces, including a profile of 25-year-old foreign exchange dealer, future-Prime Minister, John Key. The show won Feltex Awards for most of the years that it was on air. Close Up is not related to the post-nightly news show of the same name, which was hosted by Mark Sainsbury until 2012.
Long-running afternoon show The Video Dispatch presented current affairs for younger viewers. Legend has it some politicians also used it to get a handle on the news. Topics ranged from poverty to a DIY polytech computer called ‘Poly’. The show's first presenter was Dick Weir, who in 1983 handed the reins to Lloyd Scott (best known at the time as Barry Crump's hapless pal in a series of Toyota ads). Rodney Bryant replaced Scott in 1987. Among the show's many reporters were Michele A'Court, Kerre McIvor (nee Woodham), and Bill Ralston. The title sequence will tickle nostalgia for 80s kids.
Popular consumer affairs show Fair Go is one of New Zealand TV's longest-running series. It began in 1977, devised by Brian Edwards and producer Peter Morritt. The TVNZ programme mixes investigative reporting (daring to "name names" and expose rip-off merchants everywhere) with light-hearted segments. Its roster of presenters has included Edwards, Judith Fyfe, Hugo Manson, Philip Alpers, Kerre McIvor (nee Woodham), Carol Hirschfeld, Gordon Harcourt, and longest serving host, Kevin Milne. A perennial favourite segment is the round-up of the year's ad campaigns.
In 1975 TV One launched with a flagship 6.30 news bulletin which went largely unchanged with the move to TVNZ in 1980. In a 1987 revamp, it became the Network News with dual newsreaders Judy Bailey and Neil Billington (replaced by Richard Long). In 1988, the half hour programme moved to 6pm. With the advent of TV3 in late 1989, it was rebranded One Network News; and, from 1995, extended to an hour. The ill-fated replacing of Long with John Hawkesby in 1999 saw it make headlines rather than report them. In 1999, there was another name change to One News.