Northland TV station Channel North is being resurrected with a former TVNZ head of entertainment at its helm.
The community free-to-air channel broadcast from 2008 until 2015 before the Government withdrew funding when analogue TV moved to digital and it became a production company.
However, thanks to Covid-19 border closures, Peter Grattan happened to be in town and was approached to get the channel running again.
Northlander Grattan was TVNZ's head of entertainment. After visiting, living and working in 70 countries and with a raft of experience under his belt, including directing at BBC and producing with National Geographic, Grattan returned to Whangārei in January, to sell his Riverside home.
"Luckily it didn't sell," he said. "I was to be back a month before returning to the US but then decided [with Covid-19] I was better off here. I fell in love with Northland all over again. I was told CNorth was re-launching and put in touch with them."
Grattan has signed up as creative director to revive the channel as a "public access community internet platform" for Northlanders with the potential of millions of viewers worldwide. A Facebook poll for a new channel name turned up Oasis TV, North Talk, Kauri TV and Northland Compass. Many suggested "TV" and "Northland" so it was decided on Channel Northland/Te Raki TV. The subsequent Facebook page generated 500 members in five days.
"Our team of 200,000 can expect an exciting new line-up, including a Wednesday weekly news, 'Kidioke' [kids karaoke] in association with Whangārei Youth Space, Northland Yesterday [archival photos] music, arts, wellness, cooking, and a monthly real estate show, music features from Forum North and the Turner Centre, and maybe even a monthly Police 10. There'll be something for everyone, old and young," said Grattan.
There'll be a strong focus on smaller communities and Māori stories, a look at local history through old film, interviews and photos, a look at small businesses, clubs and organisations, award shows, contests and competitions. Health, sport, schools and careers will also be a focus. In addition, there will be a series called "Notable Northlanders", featuring the likes of Hone Heke, Michael Hill, funeral director/night club owner Paul Newberry and All Black Sid Going.
But they need producers: "Everyone with an iphone or a camera can be a TV producer these days so we want storytellers and videographers. Plus volunteers, ideas and, of course, sponsorship. We are a charitable trust so will seek funding but our board and I are confident it will be a success."
Community development worker and Northland TV Charitable Trust member Carol Peters, along with a group of passionate trustees, was behind the original CNorth, and was pleased to see Grattan at the helm.
"Channel North was always about giving the community a voice and the ability to have their stories told in a professional way. Regional television has reduced quite a lot but people have an appetite for regaining that community voice.
"This is a real passion of mine and what's exciting is the lives it has touched and it opens opportunity so to see it rise up again is really lovely. Peter's got that magic energy and when he started talking, we knew immediately that he was the person to get this going again and really make it fly."
The former Freeview channel reached tens of thousands of viewers at its peak. Grattan has compiled a book with 50 show ideas, along with format development ideas for shows with international potential.
"I produced Sale of the Century in London when a very young Simon Cowell was on the show and nearly won the car. We can develop shows like that right here. For example, 'Teach Your Children' about home schooling, where, in fact, the kids are often seen to be smarter than the parents.
"Since we virtually became a separate country with a southern border above Wellsford, I saw that our 'Tai Tokerau team of 200,000' needed a regional public access internet platform for stories, shows and videos, making TV, for, not only, us, but Aucklanders with holiday homes in Northland as well as those considering a return from overseas.''
Further plans include a fundraiser at Semenoff Stadium called Chopper Aid, to assist in fundraising for the rescue helicopter.