The broadcasting career of Peter Williams can trace its origins to a childhood involving rugby, cricket, and golf. Geraldine-born, and growing up in small towns around the South Island — he was the son of two primary school teachers — sport was his “number one hobby: playing it, following it.” Like Keith Quinn, Williams sometimes thumbed through old cricket almanacks for fun, only to be told he was wasting his time. He also played golf. At Waitaki Boys High School in Oamaru he won an award for a match-saving cricket innings, and had a lead role in play An Inspector Calls.
His broadcasting career began in Painted Post, a village in upstate New York. Williams spent his final year of high school there on an American Field Service scholarship. After guesting one Saturday morning on the school radio station, he soon became a regular contributor. Returning home in time to miss the start of university, he got a job with Dunedin radio station 4X0 (now More FM). Williams was 18. In early 1973 he joined the NZBC as a trainee general announcer, and went on to do time as a DJ, newsreader and sports reporter in Masterton, Blenheim, Invercargill and Christchurch, before working fulltime at Radio New Zealand Sport.
In 1979 he scored a job as a sports anchorman and commentator with TVNZ, after Phillip Leishman went overseas. Williams can still remember the names of team-members from a league test in Carlaw Park from his first day on the job: 21 July 1979. For the next 13 years Williams was full-time for TVNZ, much of it as an anchor on Saturday show Sport on One (later One World of Sport). The job was quite seasonal: “it was like being a freezing worker” — busy at some periods, but with “an awful lot of downtime”.
Ironically Williams found his television work getting a lot busier thanks to another offer from radio. TVNZ management were not impressed by his proposal to continue anchoring rugby for television, while working for Radio New Zealand during the cricket season. After initially being shown the door, Williams reapplied to become a sports reporter, covering Wellington for One Network News. He later wrote that the change opened his eyes to news. The new job taught him to write concisely for the shorter timeslot, constructing stories for maximum impact.
After 16 years in Wellington, it was time for another change. In 1995 he was appointed Australian correspondent for One News. Aside from one-off events like the Olympic Games, he left the sports desk in 1999, after winning an award from the NZ Rugby Union for his work on the Rugby World Cup.
Now based in Auckland, Williams began filling in as a newsreader across a range of shows. In 2002 he took over as presenter of late night news show Late Edition. The following year, amidst staff cutbacks at TVNZ, managed to secure a new gig reading the midday news, and producing sport for Breakfast and Midday.
Williams continues to read the news on early bird show Breakfast, three mornings a week; he was set to continue co-anchoring the prime time 6pm bulletin on weekends until the end of 2018. TV Guide readers voted him their favourite newsreader in both 2010 and 2011.
Williams has anchored or reported from seven Olympic Games including Beijing in 2008, for which he won the TP McLean Award for Sports Television. In 2010 he was chosen to present extended coverage of a remembrance service held in Greymouth, for victims of the Pike River mining disaster.
In a 1990 Listener interview Williams talked about being proudest of doing extended stints at the Commonwealth Games — mixing live interviews, events and prerecorded coverage for four or five straight hours on air. “That, to me, is the most fulfilling challenge professionally. Unlike most other TV disciplines you really have no chance to rehearse.”
Williams wrote a column for The Herald on Sunday for five years. He remains one of the only television personalities to have supplied his own voice on satirical show Public Eye. In 2011 Williams raised over $8000 for a cancer charity, after completing a half triathlon in Tauranga.
Profile published on 24 April 2014; updated on 10 December 2018
Infofind - Radio New Zealand Library
Peter Williams, ‘They fired me…then inspired me!’ - New Idea, 18 September 1999
Hugh Coley, ‘The Sporting Life’ (Interview) - The Listener (TV Times liftout) 8 January 1990, Page 29
Rachel Grunwell, ‘Williams finds a new wife - and reprieve from axe’ (Interview) - The Sunday Star Times, 3 August 2003
Robin Hartfield, ‘Busy Williams drives back to sports frontline’ (Interview) - TV Guide, 17 April 1998, Page 93
Vicky Tyler, 'Peter's new lease of life' (Interview) - New Idea, 13 July 2002
‘Peter Williams Reaches Major Milestone at TVNZ’ (Press Release). Loaded July 2009. Accessed 24 April 2014
‘Peter Williams’ (broken link) TVNZ website. Original Version loaded 26 February 2002. Accessed 24 April 2014
Glenda Walsh, ‘Early flair for - broadcasting -'(Interview) - The Evening Post, 15 October 1984