Pioneering current affairs reporter Dairne Shanahan brought social issues like abortion, transsexuality and poverty into the national conversation. Her credits include documentary Women in Power - Indira Gandhi, and current affairs shows Gallery, Close Up, Sunday and 60 Minutes in New Zealand, The Mike Willesee Show in Australia and W5 in Canada.
It was a great ride. I've loved it. Dairne Shanahan
Open Door was a unique form of community-based television that allowed groups or individuals to apply to make a documentary programme about an issue – be it family, social, sexual, political, religious, that involves or concerns them. Production company Morningside Productions, then worked with TV3 to select the 10 best proposals. The programmes were made using the expertise and equipment of the production team, but with participants taking editorial control. Funded by New Zealand On Air and broadcast on TV3, Open Door ran for 12 seasons.
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.
When long-running current affairs show Newsmakers ended its run in the Sunday night slot in 1983, Sunday took its place. The new current affairs programme continued the interview format of Newsmakers, and included renowned Newsmakers interviewer Ian Fraser. Also taking turns as Sunday host or co-host were David Beatson and Lindsay Perigo. Among those reporting for the show were Rod Vaughan, John Keir (director of documentary Flight 901 - The Erebus Disaster), Kevin Isherwood and Rodney Bryant.
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.
An interview based current affairs show, Newsmakers debuted in late 1979 at 5pm on Sundays but was quickly moved to prime time. Presenter Ian Fraser was the successor to interviewers like Bryan Edwards and Simon Walker, who were unafraid to ask hard questions and determined to get answers at any cost. Subjects included celebrities and politicians (but not PM Robert Muldoon who was refusing to speak to Fraser at the time). Newsmakers made the headlines itself following rugged encounters with National Party ministers Ben Couch and Derek Quigley.
In 1978 Eyewitness evolved out of TV2’s After Ten as a twice weekly current affairs show broadcast on Tuesday and Thursday nights. With Philip Sherry as studio anchor, it set out to investigate a single issue from a number of perspectives in each episode. Other foundation staff members included journalists Karen Sims, David Beatson, Dairne Shanahan, Rhys Jones and Neil Roberts. By 1981 it was presented by Karen Sims and had become NZ television’s longest running current affairs show — but it morphed into the nightly Eyewitness News the following year.
This 1976 documentary examines India’s third Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. Her father took office as Prime Minister in 1947, the day India became independent from Britain. Framed around an extended interview with Gandhi, reporter Dairne Shanahan explores India and Indira’s history, and her controversial ‘emergency’ governing of the democracy’s 600 million people. The documentary was directed by Barry Barclay. As this article explains, Shanahan hoped it would be the pilot for a series, but it was never made. In October 1984 Gandhi was assassinated by two of her bodyguards.
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.
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.
Like many other current affairs shows in the 70s, Tonight had a short-lived existence: in 1975 the newly-elected National government was determined to streamline television's high number of news and current affairs shows. However, the show made its mark with its infamous interview between PM Rob Muldoon and Simon (future Royal PR man) Walker, in which Walker has the temerity to ask questions not on Muldoon's sheet: "I will not have some smart alec interviewer changing the rules half way through." Tonight did well to survive two years before getting axed.
In this Gallery episode David "Mr Current Affairs" Exel politely interrogates Labour Prime Minister Norman Kirk on his first 250 days in office; ranging from Britain's changing role in the Commonwealth to Kirk's weight loss. Dairne Shanahan comments on the PM’s image and Ross Stevens weighs in on broken election promises. Exel became Gallery host in 1971, when Brian Edwards quit after NZBC refused to screen a notorious pilot for an Edwards-fronted show (then-Finance Minister Rob Muldoon sparring with young critics Tim Shadbolt, Chris Wheeler and Alister Taylor).
This 1972 documentary captures the pulse of Chinese in New Zealand — "a close-knit, traditionally minded community" concentrated in the cities. Reporter Geoff Walker briefly charts the history of Chinese immigrants, and racist policies spanning 50 years. Jock Hoe criticises New Zealand's immigration policy towards Chinese, and says older Chinese are walking more proudly as China stands on its feet again. Young Chinese-Kiwis reveal that romance with Europeans is possible, but uncommon. Also interviewed: businessman Thomas Doo and future writer Helene Wong.
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.