NZ On Air began funding local content in 1989. Timing in with the launch of a new funding system, this collection looks back at the 20 most watched NZ On Air-funded programmes over the years (aside from news and sports). Ratings information is only available from 1995, so this is how things have shaped up from 1995 to 2016 — plus some bonus titles. Most of the Top 20 has been captioned. Ex NZ On Air exec Kathryn Quirk tells us here how the complete list rated, while original NZOA boss Ruth Harley remembers how it all began.
NZ On Air is 30 years old! Over three decades, countless stories and songs reflecting New Zealand's culture and identity have been created, thanks to the organisation's investment of public funds. To celebrate this milestone, NZ On Air asked well-known Kiwis to reflect on a programme or song from the past 30 years that has stuck with them — then asked some of those who worked behind the scenes to provide their perspective. Plus Ruth Harley, the first boss of NZ On Air, describes how it all began.
In Million Dollar Tumour Dave Bowman narrates the “very personal tale” of his battle with cancer. The small town policeman was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2005, aged 35. Bowman took on funding agency Pharmac and the bureaucracy of the public health system to try to get a treatment drug subsidised for himself and other sufferers. Although his efforts partly prevailed, Bowman died in mid 2006, after this Inside New Zealand documentary screened. Directed by Dave Crerar (Here to Stay), Million Dollar Tumour won Best Documentary at the 2006 Qantas TV Awards.
Ruth Harley has been a leader and change agent across 30 years in the screen industry. She was commissioning editor at TVNZ, then the first Executive Director of NZ On Air. From 1997 she spent a decade as CEO of the NZ Film Commission, then crossed the Tasman to head the newly created Screen Australia for five years. In 1997 Harley was awarded an OBE, and in 2006 was named a CNZM.
Producer Steven O'Meagher is the founder of Auckland production company Desert Road, whose work includes acclaimed TV police drama Harry and Emmy-nominated docudrama The Golden Hour. O'Meagher developed Bill O'Brien's Aramoana massacre account 22 Hours of Terror into acclaimed feature Out of the Blue. The film went on to box office success and multiple Qantas awards.