John Terris, QSO, moved from radio into television when the new medium hit New Zealand in the early 60s. Starting as a continuity announcer, he went behind the scenes, directing on the first seasons of TV staples Country Calendar and Town and Around. In 1978 the one time Hutt City mayor began 12 years as Labour MP for Western Hutt, including time as the deputy speaker. These days Terris heads advocacy group Media Matters.
Miracles were wrought with the proverbial piece of Number 8 wire. Sets that collapsed, aeroplane sounds penetrating the studio during Victorian dramas, the unmistakable print of an exercise shoe on a trail supposed to have been used only by pre-European Māori – these are screen moments I cherish. John Terris on the early days of television, in his book Being Who You Are
The iconic all-things-rural show is the longest running programme on New Zealand television. With its typical patient observational style (that allows stories of people and the land to gently unfold) it’s an unlikely broadcasting star, but New Zealanders continue, after 50 plus years, to tune in. Amongst the bucolic tales of farming, fishing and forestry, there are high country musters, floods, organic brewing, falconry, tobacco farming, as well as a fencing wire-playing farmer-musician, a radio-controlled dog, and Fred Dagg and the Trevs.
Before he was a British MP, Austin Mitchell spent time downunder, where he was a political science lecturer and wrote 1972 classic The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise. He was also a well known NZBC broadcaster in the 60s, fronting current affairs show Compass, and this parliamentarian interview series, which analysed Kiwi politicians, “in a manner that New Zealand audiences had never seen before” (Robert Boyd-Bell, New Zealand Television - The First 25 Years). The six subjects included PM Keith Holyoake; it was produced by future Hutt mayor John Terris.
Before he was a British MP and Pavlova Paradise author, politics lecturer Austin Mitchell was a well known NZBC broadcaster. In this September 1965 first episode of his parliamentarian interview series he chats to Prime Minister Keith Holyoake. Mid-way through his 12 year reign, ‘Kiwi Keith’ offers frank insight into his job, from how he chooses his caucus to the balance of power between the arms of government. The National Party leader frames the role of PM as, “Chairman of Directors of the Board that runs the biggest business in New Zealand, the Government.”
Town and Around was a nightly magazine show, covering everything from current affairs and studio interviews to slapstick to stunts; including a notorious spoof on a farmer who shod his turkeys in gumboots. A popular and wide-ranging regional series, it ran for five years from 1965, and was the training ground for a generation of industry professionals (Brian Edwards, David McPhail, and Des Monaghan amongst many others). Town and Around was made prior to a national network link, and editions came out of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
Launched in October 1964, Compass was the first local programme to provide regular coverage of politically sensitive topics. Alongside the job of reporting on the news from a NZ perspective, Compass was the first to file comprehensive news reports from overseas. The controversial banning of a programme on the changeover to decimal currency became a flashpoint in 1966. This led to the high profile resignation of producer Gordon Bick. Compass can now be seen as the forerunner to Close Up, Foreign Correspondent and more recently Sunday.
When television began broadcasting in Auckland in 1960, the news consisted of a days old bulletin from the BBC in London. A locally-compiled bulletin began before the end of the year, with occasional locally-filmed items. From 1962 to 1969 a five minute news summary screened at 7pm, with the longer NZBC Newsreel following at 8. TV news expanded rapidly through the 60s, with the NZBC setting up a network of newsrooms in the main centres. November 1969 marked the first time a shared news broadcast played nationwide, with the launch of the NZBC Network News.