Queer Nation was the world's longest-running free-to-air factual television series for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community. It ran for 11 seasons over nine years from 1996, and paved the way for other dedicated programming for the queer community, both within New Zealand and internationally.
Queer Nation had its beginnings in a segment called Express Report on Horizon TV, then a regional television station in Auckland. In 1996 it became a stand-alone half-hour programme made by TVNZ and Horizon Pacific Television, and funded by NZ On Air.
Queer Nation was produced by Nettie Kinmont for Big Sky Films in 1997 and 1998, before moving to John A Givins' company Livingstone Productions in 1999. Andrew Whiteside was with Queer Nation as a Reporter/Director from the beginning with Kinmont, and later became Producer. Whiteside fronted the show with Kinmont and Libby Magee for many years, and the three were key in shaping the content and style of Queer Nation.
Givins was Executive Producer for six years, and a key creative leader for the programme. He also produced spin-off programmes such as 2002's Queer Nation at the Gay Games.
Queer Nation was mostly a magazine programme featuring news/current affairs, profiles and events in the LGBT community. However each series also contained several one-off programmes produced on a single theme, such as the gay history of Wellington, Pioneering Lesbians, Civil Unions or the Hero Parade. These specials were popular with the audience and attracted greater viewer numbers.
Queer Nation was funded by NZ On Air under its mandate to provide for the interests of minorities in the community. In the years before the internet became widespread, Queer Nation was widely believed to provide a lifeline to LGBT viewers in smaller rural towns where they had little or no other support.
Viewer feedback on Queer Nation was generally positive, but there was a major problem for viewers (one shared by most other special interest programme viewers) and that was the time slot. Queer Nation was broadcast weekly on TV2 after 11pm on a weeknight, and despite ongoing pressure from the LGBT community for a more accessible time slot, it never eventuated.
Whiteside has won three AIDS Media Awards, and Magee one, for their work on Queer Nation. In 2003 Queer Nation won the award for Best Factual Series at the AFTA New Zealand Television Awards.
Using the Queer Nation archive, Livingstone Productions piloted two international magazine programmes for Canadian cable channel Pridevision (The G Factor for men, and She Spot for women).
Queer Nation ended in 2004, just after New Zealand's Civil Unions legislation was passed. Queer Nation's coverage of the passage of that bill from a queer perspective was excellent, providing precious archival material of a turning point in New Zealand's history.
The complete archive of Queer Nation files and recordings was donated in 2008 to the Lesbian and Gay Archive of New Zealand (LAGANZ, held at the Alexander Turnbull Library). It is part of the permanent collection.
- Annie Murray has commissioned children's and special interest programmes for TVNZ, and been Head of External Programming at Māori Television. In 2014 she became Senior Commissioner at Sky and Prime TV, focussing mainly on local content.