David Beatson's 50 year career included high profile stints in TV current affairs: reporting, interviewing and producing for shows like Town and Around, Compass, Gallery, and Eyewitness, and chairing election debates. Beatson went on to edit The Listener, and was a press secretary to PM Jim Bolger and spokesperson for Air NZ. He served on the boards of various media organisations, and was chairman of NZ On Air.
... if you are not a little nervous there is something wrong. David Beatson on returning to television for a show on satellite channel Stratos, NZ Herald, 31 October 2008
Once upon a time the Kiwi accent was a broadcasting crime, and politicians decided in advance which questions they would answer on-screen. Here is the News examines three decades (up to 1992) of Kiwi TV journalism and news presentation. The roll-call of on and off camera talent provides fascinating glimpses behind key events, including early jury-rigged attempts at nationwide broadcast, Dougal Stevenson announcing the 1975 arrival of competing TV networks, the Wahine, Erebus, Muldoon, turkeys in gumboots, and the tour - where journalists too, became "objects of hatred".
Lindsay Perigo and TV producer Allison Webber have a heated discussion about the portrayal of women in the media in this 1986 current affairs show. Webber says females are sick of being portrayed as sex symbols or tidiness-obsessed housewives. Webber was representing Media Women; the organisation was campaigning for better media coverage, and running its first NZ conference. Also interviewed are Dominion journalist Judy Pehrson, advertising guru Terry Christie, and Mr Wrong director Gaylene Preston (who talks about double standards in casting movie roles).
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.
Hosted by broadcaster Gordon Dryden, and screening on the second television channel, The Friday Conference aimed to be a public discussion forum as Dryden quizzed newsmakers of the day in-depth. In 1977 it shifted to Thursday nights. It was the first New Zealand current affairs programme to regularly use studio audiences. Notable interviewees included Prime Minister Robert Muldoon and Abraham Ordia, president of Africa's Supreme Council for Sport (who helped spur the African boycott of the 1976 Olympics, over the All Blacks touring apartheid South Africa).
This 1975 general election leaders' debate sees Prime Minister Bill Rowling (Labour) square off against contender Robert Muldoon (National) in front of a panel (Bruce Slane, Gordon Dryden, David Beatson). Rowling had been in the job a year, after the death of Norm Kirk, and Muldoon paints him as a drifter in the face of the first oil shock. It was one of three pre-election specials made for NZ TV’s new second channel. This is filmed in black and white, but during this campaign National exploited newly-arrived colour TV via the infamous ‘Dancing Cossacks’ ads.
Nationwide replaced Gallery as part of the NZBC’s first foray into nightly current affairs. In 1974 and 1975, it ran for 20 minutes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays (with Inquiry on Wednesdays and World Scene on Fridays). It was produced by Rod Vaughan; The reporters included Ian Fraser, Keith Aberdein, David Beatson and conservationist Guy Salmon. Prime Minister Norman Kirk famously took great offence at a series of skits featuring Fraser and John Clarke involving remits at the 1974 Labour Party conference. Nationwide was replaced by the equally short-lived Tonight in 1976.
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.
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.