Journalist, Author, Broadcaster
Ian Cross trained as a journalist. His 1957 novel The God Boy has been hailed as a classic (and similar status afforded to the 1976 TV adaptation). As Listener editor he doubled its circulation; as broadcasting chair and chief executive he had a turbulent relationship with the Muldoon government — and failed to stem what he saw as the over-commercialisation of television.
I melded South Pacific TV and TV One together and that caused a lot of angst, but I was convinced of the need to do it. Looking back I created a Frankenstein’s monster. Television is the most pervasive and democratic medium in any country. Every western country has a non-commercial television service. We haven’t. Ian Cross, in The NZ Herald
This four-part series explores New Zealand social history through rugby, from the first rugby club in 1870 to the 1995 World Cup. In this episode commentators muse on the roots of rugby in a settler society, in "a man's country". Rugby's unique connection with Māori, from Tom Ellison and the Natives’ tour to a Te Aute College haka, is explored; as well as the national identity-defining 1905 Originals’ tour, and the relationship between footy and the battlefield. As the Finlay Macdonald-penned narration reflects: “Maybe it's just a game, but it's the game of our lives”.
This edition of the early 90s magazine arts show begins with a visit to Auckland's Herald Theatre to preview a production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Michael Hurst and starring 16-year-old actor Sophia Hawthorne. Raybon Kan explores fatal books; author Ian Cross is interviewed and Bill Ralston reviews Cross’s latest novel (with Ralston wanting to know why all New Zealand art is "so bleak, so barren"). Film Festival director Bill Gosden previews the event's programme, and comedy group Facial DBX is interviewed ahead of the Watershed Comedy Festival.
“It’s hard to imagine our way of life before the box turned up in our living rooms.” Newsreader Dougal Stevenson presents this condensed history of New Zealand television’s first 15 years: from 60s current affairs and commercials, to music shows and early attempts at drama. The first part of a two-part special, this charts the single channel days of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation from its birth in 1960 until puberty in 1975, when it was split into two separate channels. Includes recollections from many of NZ TV’s formative reporters and presenters.
Column Comment in the 60s and News Stand in the 70s established a tradition of print media scrutiny by TV. Fourth Estate succeeded them with a brief expanded to include radio, TV and magazines. For 12 minutes on Friday nights, no media outlet (and especially not broadcaster TVNZ) was safe from the ruminations of journalism lecturer Brian Priestley, along with John Kennedy, editor of the Catholic weekly The Tablet, and guest presenters. Only brief programme excerpts and graphics of the newspaper articles under discussion provide visual relief.
The God Boy is a portrait of a troubled teen Jimmy (Jamie Higgins) growing up in post-war small town New Zealand and wrestling with a repressive education and home front turmoil. Adapted from the Ian Cross novel by Ian Mune and directed by Murray Reece, the landmark film was the first NZ telefeature, gaining Feltex awards and front page reviews. With menace and Catholic guilt ever-present, it’s credited as a pioneer of what Sam Neill dubbed NZ’s “cinema of unease”. Higgins later starred in Australian TV show The Sullivans.
Sir Ed Hillary, then in his early 50s, acts as tour guide to remote New Zealand. In the far north he receives a tokotoko (walking stick) and admires the Aupōuri people’s connection with the land. He goes bush and dives for scallops off Stewart Island, and fishes on a Hollyford sandspit. In 1971 he tackles a grand traverse of Mount Cook with Harry Ayres and other mates — not bad for a self-described "middle-aged family man who has tried to keep himself reasonably fit". Sir Ed narrates, and his down-to-earth passion for adventure makes this an inspiring travelogue.
In the early 1970s expat broadcaster Michael Dean took Aotearoa’s pulse, as it loosened its necktie and moved from “ice-cream on mutton, swilled around in tea” conservatism, towards a more cosmopolitan outlook. Dean asks the intelligentsia (James K Baxter, Tim Shadbolt, Peter Cape, Shirley Smith, Bill Sutch, Ian Cross, Peter Beaven, Pat Hanly, Syd Jackson, Hana Te Hemara) for their take. The questions range from “what does the family in Tawa sit down to eat these days?” to the Māori renaissance. Dean had made his name in the 60s, as a high profile broadcaster with the BBC.
It's Wellington in the 1970s and Bob (Jeremy Stephens) is having a midlife crisis. Square-peg Graham (Bill Johnson, who later played Mr Wilberforce in Under the Mountain) tries to convince Bob to quit his bohemian lifestyle (and his lover/muse Carol) and return to his wife Jean. But is Graham really acting in his mate's best interests? Featuring a young Sam Neill as the epitome of handsome, unfettered youth (flared jeans, bushy beard) this early, well-received TV drama was one of several produced by the NZ Broadcasting Corporation to tackle 'difficult' contemporary issues.
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.