Key Points:

New Zealand's first free-to-air, 24-hour Chinese television channel, CTV8, hopes to attract viewers wanting to learn Mandarin as well as local Chinese people.

The channel, which went to air on August 1, was officially launched in Auckland yesterday.

It broadcasts in Mandarin and Cantonese and is available in the greater Auckland region, featuring variety shows, dramas, documentaries and news.

World TV chief executive Henry Ho said yesterday that although the channel was UHF at present, it had plans to broadcast digitally next year through telecommunications company Kordia.

Mr Ho had been surprised at the interest from non-Mandarin speakers in the channel's breakfast show.

"We have Kiwis phoning in to the breakfast show saying they enjoy the channel. They say they are learning Mandarin and this helps them learn quicker, which is quite unexpected."

World TV broadcasts 10 Asian television channels through Sky. CTV8 is available on channel 62 but is so named because it is World TV's eighth Chinese channel.

Mr Ho said it would give people who didn't have pay TV a chance to view Chinese programmes.

He said 30 per cent of the content would be locally produced.

He hoped it would satisfy the demands of the Chinese community and appeal to New Zealanders learning Chinese.

He said 7 per cent of Auckland's population was Chinese, which amounted to around 100,000 people, and he hoped all those people would tune in every day.

Media research group AGB Nielsen said viewer numbers would be available in a couple of months.

At the launch yesterday, Minister of Ethnic Affairs Chris Carter said, in a speech read out by Minister for Auckland Issues Judith Tizard, that New Zealand had come a long way since the days of having only one, then two channels to choose from.

"It's a great milestone for New Zealand's Chinese community and non-Chinese New Zealanders ... Let's look forward to the day when Mandarin and Cantonese are official languages in New Zealand," he said.

"We are all different and it's this diversity that gives us strength."

Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey said the new channel was unique and exciting.

CTV8 LOWDOWN

* Available in greater Auckland.

* Shows include documentaries from China and Taiwan; a joint morning broadcast with radio station AM936, news from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, dramas with both Mandarin and Cantonese soundtracks; Mandarin language lessons; and late-night youth programmes.

* The new channel is available on channel 62, but is called CTV8 because it's World TV's eighth Chinese channel.

* It is a UHF channel, but there are plans for digital channels next year.