Our stories and characters on screen

NZ On Air-funded TV programmes have entertained and provoked, reflected our nation's identity and marked significant moments for 25 years.

We invest more than $80 million a year in innovative, creative programming with a diversity of faces, stories and storytellers. From prime time drama, to children's programming, thought-provoking documentaries, comedy and special interest programmes - the essential element is these are local people and their stories.

Let's take a trip down memory lane.


A generation has grown up with us

Children's programmes through the years have covered the range from drama, animation and puppets to live studio magazine style shows.

One of the first children's programmes we ever funded was the New Zealand take on the classic UK drama series Black Beauty.

Black Beauty - Isambard Productions for TV3

Today there's something local on TV for kids of all ages every day of the week. From the early days of animation - remember Squirt? which pioneered the use of motion-capture technology- to today's clever and colourful pre-school offerings such as Tiki TourWiki The Kiwi and puppet show The Moe Show.

Many well-known New Zealanders cut their teeth in television on kids shows. Just take a look at What Now?

We've been supporting the weekly show made by Whitebait TV since 1991 and today it combines online engagement with a studio-based format to delight young viewers.

What Now? - Whitebait TV for TV2


We've explored important events & issues

Important nation-building moments in our history have featured in a range of documentary one-offs and series. 

Everything from The New Zealand Wars, to the story of the body recovery operation on Mt Erebus in Erebus: Operation Overdue, our contribution and sacrifice in World War 1, and the sorrows and challenges of the Christchurch earthquakes.

Stories of famous New Zealanders have been preserved in the likes of Bread & Roses and Hillary: A View From The Top.

We've also explored issues such as rehabilitation of prisoners through song, with Songs From The Inside and put issues and decision-makers in the spotlight with shows like Q + A and The Nation.

Field Punishment No 1 - Lippy Pictures for TV One


And celebrated our beautiful country

We've been spoilt for gorgeous, informative programmes featuring the natural beauty of New Zealand's landscapes and oceans. 

We've celebrated the diversity of New Zealand's communities. Shows like Tagata Pasifika which reflects our place as a Pacific nation and home to many Pacific peoples, and Heartland which explored communities and their unique characters.

And year after year we've tuned in to find out about life down on the farm, in Country Calendar - New Zealand's longest running TV programme.

Tagata Pasifika - TVNZ for TV One


Enjoyed home-grown drama

The Brokenwood Mysteries - South Pacific Pictures for Prime

Drama is an important genre for NZ On Air. Making good drama is an expensive business and it's cheaper to buy it off the shelf overseas. So if we want to see local stories its important that drama production is supported by NZ On Air.

The longest running has been Shortland Street which was funded by us for the first four years. Since then it has become a commercial success and provided a launch pad for many acting, writing and directing careers.

Our first funded drama was the Wellington-based cop show Shark In The Park. Check it out at NZ On Screen.

And then see how it compares to a modern day cop drama - our most recently funded The Brokenwood Mysteries.

New Zealand drama is unique to us. Prime time audiences have embraced series like Outrageous Fortune, The Almighty Johnsons, Go Girls and Nothing Trivial, so that they've stayed on our screens for several seasons.  

Meanwhile stand-out telefeatures have won awards and acclaim. Seige, Tangiwai and more recently Consent: The Louise Nicholas Story have all sympathetically dramatised important stories.

Outrageous Fortune - South Pacific Pictures for TV3


And laughed, a lot

The classic dry Kiwi humour has featured strongly through the years. Billy T James and the Topp Twins have been regulars on our screens. Remember Letter To Blanchy - a collaboration of some of NZ's greatest comedic writers A.K. Grant, Tom Scott and the on-screen duo McPhail and Gadsby?

Today Friday nights on TV3 have become a beacon for comedy with the panel series 7 Days and skit show Jono And Ben At Ten.

7 Days - The Downlow Concept for TV3

There are too many fantastic local programmes to mention them all here. We suggest you explore NZ On Screen. They have a special Spotlight on NZ On Air here. 

You can also find lots of information here on our own website about what we've funded through the years.


TV in the regions

Since 2005 NZ On Air has provided support for regional television news and information programmes. In 2015 we support programmes on nine regional stations.

Regional television provides a local perspective seldom provided by national TV networks.

Stand-alone regional television began to emerge in the 1990's. The longest established regional TV channel is CTV in Christchurch which began broadcasting in June 1991. 

Their proudly parochial coverage was never more at the heart of their community than on 22 February 2011. The CTV building collapsed in the catastrophic earthquake resulting in the deaths of 16 CTV staff. Despite losing their broadcast equipment, records and video library CTV was back on air two months later. 

Andrew Keeley - General Manager of CTV

Regional television is not only about local communities, but can also reflect a different approach from the mainstream. For example TV Central, which broadcasts in the greater Waikato region, promotes 'family safe' viewing. It is part of its mission to 're-establish strong moral boundaries and ideals back into the television industry'. 

And as with every area of the media, technology is changing the future. When regional television channels made the switchover from UHF to digital transmission in 2013 Te Hiku Television in Kaitaia created the first regional internet TV channel. 

You can find out more about your own regional television channel here.


Next Article: Our support for music

When NZ On Air began in 1989, less than 2% of the music on radio was local content. We started music funding in 1991 - and the mission was clear.