NZ on Screen: NZ On Air turns 25

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NZ On Screen Content Director Irene Gardiner looks back at some of the shows funded in NZOA’s first year of existence, as the funding agency celebrates its 25th birthday.

Scenes from The Billy T James Show, children's programme Bidibidi and a documentary of Hokonui Todd.
Scenes from The Billy T James Show, children's programme Bidibidi and a documentary of Hokonui Todd.

Broadcasting funding agency NZ On Air turns 25 this month, having formally come on stream in July 1989, just ahead of the launch of our first independent television network TV3 in November 1989.

In the quarter of a century since it began, NZOA has funded a wide range of television programmes and music videos, many of which can be seen on NZ On Screen.

To mark the 25th anniversary, we're looking back at some of the highlights from NZOA's first year of operation - with one show from each funding genre.

In the "drama" category, which also included situation comedy, was The Billy T James Show. This was Billy T's last TV series, and was a family based sitcom, rather than the sketch comedy and variety shows that were more his trademark. Ilona Rodgers played Billy T's wife, and popular comic actors Mark Hadlow and Mark Wright were also in the cast. The show wasn't especially well-received in its time. Perhaps Billy T's step into another format was a bit much for his fans.

But with the passage of time, people seem to look on the show a little more fondly.

You can see some excerpts from the series below:



From the children's programmes category comes classic kids puppet show Bidibidi, produced in Dunedin by TVNZ's Natural History Unit (now NHNZ). Adapted from the children's book by Gavin Bishop, Bidibidi followed the adventures of a sheep on a South Island station. The show's distinctive style featured a mixture of puppet scenes with actual wildlife footage.

View the first episode of Bidibidi here:



Among the "Programmes for Minority Groups" funded in year one of NZOA was long-running Pacific magazine series Tagata Pasifika. The TVNZ series has featured stories on all manner of Pacific topics over the years, including this piece on comedy troupe the Naked Samoans. Made in 2001, this story pre-dates bro'Town and Sione's Wedding, the popular later works from members of the Naked Samoans team.

You can see the Naked Samoans on Tagata Pasifika here:

Tagata Pasifika - The Naked Samoans

From the "Maori Programmes" genre for year one of NZOA funding decisions came the acclaimed documentary Maori Battalion - March to Victory. Produced, directed and written by Tainui Stephens, the documentary tells the story of the New Zealand Army's 28th Maori Battalion which fought in campaigns during World War II. The moving documentary is narrated by George Henare, and features the stories of five men who served with the unit.

View Maori Battalion - March to Victory here:



In the documentary funding category was one of the first productions from TV music show host and musician turned documentary maker Richard Driver. Hokonui Todd is the life story of one of Driver's childhood heroes, Sir Garfield Todd. The New Zealander who became an African statesman was an outspoken supporter of the black right to self determination in Zimbabwe.

You can see the Hokonui Todd documentary here:



- NZ Herald

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