Ian Fraser made his name in the late 70s as one of New Zealand’s most respected interviewers, facing off against everyone from Robert Muldoon to the Shah of Iran. In 2002, after time spent in public relations and as head of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, he returned to Television New Zealand — this time as its chief executive.
I think if you identify my record as an interviewer or journalist you will find I always operated without fear or favour. I have always been my own man. Ian Fraser
The opening episode of the Prime TV series celebrating 50 years of New Zealand television travels from an opening night puppet show in 1960, through to Outrageous Fortune five decades later. It traverses the medium's development and its major turning points (including the rise of programme-making and news, networking, colour and the arrival of TV3, Prime, NZ On Air, Sky and Māori Television). Many of the major players are interviewed. The changing nature of the NZ living room — always with the telly in pride of place as modern hearth — is a story within the story.
Set in Central Otago in the drought-parched summer of 1975, gay-themed feature film 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous follows a chubby 12-year-old named Billy (Andrew Paterson) as he embarks on a challenging journey of sexual discovery. Adapting Graeme Aitken's novel, writer/director Stewart Main (Desperate Remedies) depicts a boy escaping into fantasy from the drudgery of farming duties — and learning about himself, his sexuality, and dealing with change. 50 Ways won a Special Jury Award at Italy's Turin International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 2005.
Award-winning series Revolution examined sweeping changes in 1980s New Zealand society. This second episode argues that in its first term in office, the Labour Government promoted neoliberal reform via illusory ideas of consensus and fairness, while PM David Lange mined goodwill from its indie anti-nuclear policy (famously in an Oxford Union debate, see third clip). The interviews include key figures in politics, the public service and business: an age of easy lending and yuppie excess is recalled, while those in rural areas recount the downside of job losses.
Four-part series Revolution examined radical changes in New Zealand society in the 1980s and 1990s. This final episode sums things up, after examining "the second wave" of neoliberal reform when National took power in 1990, shortly after Telecom was sold to American interests. Incoming finance minister Ruth "mother of all budgets" Richardson oversaw a reduction of welfare payments, a shake-up of the health system, and a curbing of union powers. Richardson: "in a human sense I understood that [community outrage], but that wasn't going to deflect me".
Documentary series Revolution mapped the social and economic changes in New Zealand society in the 1980s and early 1990s. This first episode focuses on NZ's radical transformation from a heavily regulated welfare state to a petri dish for free market ideology. It includes interviews with key political and business figures of the day, who reveal how the dire economic situation by the end of Robert Muldoon's reign made it relatively easy for Roger Douglas to implement extreme reform. Revolution won Best Factual Series at the 1997 Film and TV Awards.
Four-part series Revolution examined sweeping changes in New Zealand society that began in the 1980s. This third episode looks at the lurch of the Kiwi stock market from boom to bust in 1987, and the growing philosophical divide between the “head boys”: PM David Lange and finance minister Roger 'Rogernomics' Douglas. Within two months of the October 1987 stock market crash, $21 billion was lost from the value of NZ shares. Lange and Douglas give accounts of how their differing views on steering the NZ economy eventually resulted in both their resignations.
From 1996 to 1998 broadcaster Ian Fraser took time out from hosting current affairs, to MC this popular musical talent quest (Fraser, a trained pianist, also tinkled the ivories himself during the series). There were two finals: one assessed by studio judges, and one from viewers' votes. The performers ranged from covers bands to opera singers, from country and western to soul. Future Opshop members Jason Kerrison and Shay Muddle were judged runners-up in 1996 (as Akustik Fungi). Other contestants included Lisa Tomlins, opera tenor Shaun Dixon and actor Stig Eldred.
The Grand Final of this 1996 musical talent quest series Showcase was hosted by Ian Fraser. The nine finalists perform songs from Mozart on guitar, to 'Everything’s Gonna Be Alright'. The opening act is Akustik Fungi: Jason Kerrison, one half of the duo, would later find fame as singer for chart-topping band Opshop, and return the favour as a judge on New Zealand’s Got Talent. The Showcase judges are Sir Howard Morrison, actor Rima Te Wiata, Dame Malvina Major (who performs) and Eddie Rayner (who got his break on TV talent show New Faces, while part of Split Enz).
Showcase was a popular mid 90s TVNZ talent quest, in which broadcaster Ian Fraser hosted a search "to find the very best" emerging musical talent. Filmed at Avalon Studios, this viewers' final from 1996 sees nine finalists compete for the public phone vote (there was a separate studio judges’ final). Songs range from Stevie Wonder and Sister Sledge covers to classical standards. Shona Laing, who got her break on a TV talent show, guest performs. Competitor Shaun Dixon went on to train under Pavarotti, and married another finalist from this episode, fellow opera singer Tania Brand.
Christopher Columbus sailed 15,000 miles to find the new world: "500 years later, it turned up on the doorstep." This documentary chronicles New Zealand's hit contribution to Expo '92, held on the Seville island where Columbus apparently planned his voyages. Amidst the celebrations, come culture clashes. Reporter Marcia Russell argues that ultimately Expo is about creating consumers and brand awareness, by selling New Zealad as sophisticated, exotic, proud, and culturally mature. It is also a chance to persuade the masses that Aotearoa is actually south.
This 1991 story from magazine show Sunday profiles Logan Brewer: production designer on Kiwi TV classics (C’Mon, Hunter’s Gold), and producer of Terry and the Gunrunners and live ‘spectaculars’ like the 1990 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. He talks through his career: learning about performing at England's National Theatre, and selling Aotearoa as “the last paradise” for Expo '92 in Seville — for which he is shown wrangling an extended shot of Kiri Te Kanawa and the NZ Symphony Orchestra, promoting fibreglass pohutukawa, and working with designer Grant Major.
In this episode of Fourth Estate, journalism lecturer Brian Priestley ruefully brings down the curtain on state TV's media commentary show. After 12 years of scrutinising newspapers, radio, magazines and TV, Priestley offers parting awards for "the most memorable people, programmes or papers since 1976". He also gently snipes at the decision to can his show (which he points out still rates as well as Miami Vice). While full of praise for the achievements of some outlets and journalists, Priestley sees a difficult future ahead for a media under threat from trivialisation and superficiality.
Frontline replaced Close Up as TVNZ’s flagship, primetime current affairs show in 1988. Fronted by Ross Stevens, and made at Avalon at a time when TVNZ management had relocated to Auckland, it produced the controversial 1990 doco For the Public Good which explored the relationship between business and the Labour Government. In the fallout, TVNZ was sued, staff were sacked and the office moved to Auckland. In 1994, a special about the Winebox tax allegations saw Frontline back in the news. Other presenters included Lindsay Perigo, Anita McNaught and Susan Wood.
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.
This documentary on legendary Kiwi playwright Bruce Mason premiered soon after his death. The result is a portrait of a man who become an artist despite, as much as because of, his fellow Kiwis. There are shots of Mason performing solo classic The End of the Golden Weather on his beloved Takapuna Beach, and insights from a cast of Kiwi theatrical heavyweights. In an extended interview with The Listener's Helen Paske, Mason ranges from his works looking at Māori-Pākehā relations, to over the top reaction to controversial tele-play The Evening Paper.
In 1983, Split Enz, NZ's most successful rock group to date, celebrated 10 years together. TVNZ's flagship arts show Kaleidoscope marked the occasion by following the band on their 'Enz of an Era' tour as they reunited with former members (including Mike Chunn) for a concert at Auckland's His Majesty's Theatre (where they first made a major impact) and played the Sweetwaters Festival. Members talk frankly to reporter Ian Fraser about a decade of highs and lows, and there's priceless Dylan Taite-filmed tomfoolery from the band's early days in England.
In 1982 renowned Russian pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy toured New Zealand. With the combined support of TVNZ, Radio New Zealand and the NZ Symphony Orchestra, a one-off televised concert was arranged. Ashkenazy plays two pieces backed by the NZSO at the Auckland Town Hall, after an interview by Ian Fraser, in which the pianist praises the NZSO's ability to handle a piece he describes as "almost unplayable in parts". In the second clip, he plays Béla Bartók’s Second Concerto, and in the third clip — which appears never to have gone to air — César Franck’s Symphonic Variations.
NZ’s leading interviewer of the day Ian Fraser puts the questions to his British counterpart, international media star David Frost, on this TVNZ current affairs show. The urbane Frost backgrounds his landmark 1977 interviews with disgraced former American president Richard Nixon (later the subject of Frost/Nixon). He is also on the brink of launching breakfast TV in the UK at a time when the media world is more finite and he can describe the venture as the “last new frontier”; and he discusses the then vexed subject of private/public media ownership.
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 1979 entertainer Ray Woolf went from co-hosting Two for One to his own chat show. This wide-ranging 'best of' episode from the end of the first season takes in bloopers, the victims of the Amityville Horror, Doctor Who Jon Pertwee, Gomer Pyle Jim Nabors, Norman Gunston, Alan Whicker, Frankie Howerd, Derek Nimmo, Diana Dors, Austin Mitchell, poet Pam Ayres, humorist Erma Bombeck and singer Billy Daniels — plus Kiwis Ricky May, Ian Fraser (on piano), Tina Cross, Selwyn Toogood and Precious McKenzie. Woolf, was judged 1979 TV Light Entertainer of the year.
TV1 celebrated Christmas by throwing most of its big names into this 1977 comedy/variety show. Ringleaders Roger Gascoigne and Nice One Stu's Stu Dennison are joined by a cavalcade of newsreaders hiding under Santa beards. Among the loopy 70s oddities on show: Brian Edwards in school uniform, channelling The Goons; Selwyn Toogood doing an It's in the Bag sketch that would nowadays likely be deemed too un-PC to make it to air; plus racehorse expert Glyn Tucker talking reindeer races. Madcap band Mother Goose also appear.
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.
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.