Canadian Joe Cote was travelling the world on his OE when love led him to New Zealand in 1965. He landed a job at the NZ Broadcasting Corporation soon after; initially he wasn't allowed on air because of his accent. In 1970 Cote moved into TV, presenting current affairs show The South Tonight. He also worked on Gallery and Inquiry. Cote became the inaugural presenter for National Radio's Morning Report in 1975.
The biggest adjustment I'll have to make is resisting the urge to wake myself up at four every morning. That still hurts. I've been doing it for 27 years. Joe Cote on working in breakfast radio, Toronto Star, 2 September 1992
Seven Days was designed by producer Des Monaghan to bridge the current affairs gap between the NZBC and TV One. As well as putting the heat on local politicians, it turned its attention to major international events. Major stories included Ian Fraser’s trip to Vietnam to cover the last days before the fall of Saigon and Ian Johnstone’s three-part look at apartheid-era South Africa ahead of the 1976 All Back tour. For its third and final year, the focus changed to observational documentaries and laid the groundwork for TVNZ’s in-house documentary unit.
This edition of the 1970s current affairs show sees reporter Joe Coté investigating women in politics. A potted history of the trailblazers — from suffragist Kate Sheppard to Māori MP Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan (first to have a baby while in office) — leads to wide-ranging conversations with contemporary women in politics. Future Christchurch mayor Vicki Buck (here a 19-year-old council candidate) and others from across the spectrum, talk about ongoing struggles for equality: education, empowerment, abortion, childcare support, and the ‘old boys’ network.
On the 3rd of September 1974, Niueans voted to self-govern in free association with New Zealand. Inquiry visits the tiny Pacific Island atoll one week before this hugely significant referendum, to take the mood of the people and observe how the island, which relies on shipped imports, keeps its economy afloat. Reporter Joe Coté interviews future Niue premier Robert Rex and Hima Douglas, a future politician. Coté investigates if the decision to self-govern will affect the large number of Niueans who leave each year to settle in New Zealand.
In September 1974, NZ reels from the premature loss of Norman Kirk — dead at 51 after just 20 months as prime minister. For this NZBC current affairs show, reporters Joe Coté and George Andrews head to the provinces to find out how Kirk is remembered by the ordinary men and women he valued so much. In less than stellar Labour strongholds in Central Otago and Taranaki, they meet people won over by a politician prepared to listen and treat them as equals. Their palpable affection is shared by Pacific leaders Gough Whitlam, Albert Henry and Michael Somare.
In 1973 the focus of NZBC’s current affairs programming was under pressure to be reshaped (from the new Labour Government). Long-running show Gallery was to provide follow-up and explanation of current events, and Inquiry was to be a weekly film programme that provided more in-depth treatment of topical issues. Inquiry programmes had a three week turnaround for research, editing and broadcasting; Geoff Walker, Alan Brady and Joe Coté were the initial reporters. Topics covered included a wide-ranging 1974 survey of women in politics: ‘Nothing Venture, Nothing Gain’.
Current affairs show Gallery took on controversial topics of the day, most famously in a Brian Edwards interview which solved a Post Office industrial dispute live on-air. Produced by Des Monaghan, it began as a studio-based programme that discussed political issues, but was soon expanded. Edwards’ confrontational style of interrogating public figures was new to New Zealand TV, and polarised viewers. It saw Edwards (the "mad mauler") become a household name, and earned him a reputation as a hardline interviewer. He was succeeded as host by David Exel.