Television in New Zealand

Television in New Zealand

Television in New Zealand was introduced in 1960. Provision was first made for the licensing of private radio and television stations in New Zealand by the Broadcasting Act 1976.

In New Zealand, in addition to a legacy analogue network, there are three forms of broadcast digital television. Satellite services provided nationwide by both Freeview and Sky, terrestrial DVB-T service provided in the main centres by Freeview, and cable service available in Wellington and Christchurch from TelstraClear.

The first nationwide digital TV service was launched in December 1998 by SKY TV, who had a monopoly on digital satellite TV until the launch of Freeview's nationwide digital Satellite service in May 2007. The Freeview terrestrial service, named Freeview|HD is a high definition digital terrestrial television service launched on 14 April 2008. The service currently serves areas surrounding Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier-Hastings, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin. Digital cable television currently operates in Wellington and Christchurch on TelstraClear's cable TV system. High Definition programming is available from Freeview on terrestrial broadcast only and on SKY TV through the MY SKY HDi decoder. Only a limited range of channels are available in High Definition.



Full-time television broadcasting was first introduced in New Zealand in 1960 and transmitted from the NZBC's existing 1YA radio broadcasting facility at 74 Shortland Street in Auckland, now home to The University of Auckland's Gus Fisher Gallery. The annual television licence fee was NZ£4.

Initially, programming was done on a regional basis, with different services broadcasting from the main cities, AKTV2 in Auckland, being the first, followed by CHTV3 in Christchurch and WNTV1 in Wellington in 1961, and finally DNTV2 in Dunedin in 1962. Today, however, programming and scheduling is done in Auckland where all the major networks are now headquartered

It was not until 1969 that the NZBC's first live network news bulletin was broadcast. In November 1973 Colour Television was introduced and the NZBC Broadcast nationalised in good timing for the 1974 British Commonwealth Games.

The NZBC had asked the government for the approval of a second TV channel as early as 1964, but this was rejected as the government considered increasing coverage of the existing TV service to be of greater priority. By 1971, however, two proposals for a second channel were under consideration: that of the NZBC for a non-commercial service; and a separate commercial channel to be operated by an Independent Television Corporation.

Although the Broadcasting Authority had favoured the Independent Television bid, the incoming Labour government favoured the NZBC's application and awarded it the licence without any formal hearings beforehand. (Eventually, Independent Television was awarded NZ$50 000 in compensation.)


The introduction of a second TV channel in 1975, also saw the reorganisation of broadcasting in New Zealand. The NZBC was dissolved in April of that year, with the two television channels, Television One and TV2, run separately from one another. TV2 was renamed South Pacific Television in 1976.

In 1978, the Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand (BCNZ) was established, and in 1980, TV One and South Pacific (known once again as TV2) were merged into a single organisation, Television New Zealand (TVNZ).


In 1988, following major economic reforms to the state sector, the BCNZ was dissolved. TVNZ and RNZ became separate 'State-Owned Enterprises' (SOEs) which would have to compete commercially and return dividends to the Crown.

Rather than continuing to be used to directly fund TVNZ and Radio New Zealand, the licence fee, now called the broadcasting fee was to be used for local content production and the government funding for non-commercial broadcasting in radio and television on a contestable basis. As part of wide ranging reforms in the broadcasting sector, the Labour Government of David Lange established the Broadcasting Commission, which became known as and finally called New Zealand on Air.

Restrictions on television advertising were removed in 1989, so that TVNZ channels could show advertisements on Sundays and public holidays. In that year, TV3 became the first privately owned TV station in the country, finally ending the state monopoly. Restrictions on foreign ownership were also removed, and TV3 was subsequently sold to Canada's CanWest. SKY Network Television, in which TVNZ originally had a small stake, began broadcasting New Zealand's first pay TV service on three UHF channels.

Other free-to-air commercial television operators now include TV3's sister channel FOUR, previously known as C4 and Prime TV. SKY TV remains the dominant pay-TV operator, now operating on satellite, although TelstraClear also operates cable TV services.

Although TVNZ had to compete with its commercial rivals through the 1990s, it maintained a dominant market position and paid a significant amount of its profits to the Crown in dividends. By 1998–1999, the National Party-led coalition was moving to privatise TVNZ and announced that the broadcasting fee would be discontinued. Since the 1970s, the licence fee had been capped at NZ$100 a year, and was not allowed to increase with inflation. In real terms, this meant that public funding of broadcasting in New Zealand was greatly reduced by the time of the broadcasting fee's abolition.

However, the 1999 election saw a Labour-led coalition gain office. Over its next two terms, attempts were made to reintroduce public service functions to the sector. In 2003, TVNZ was restructured as a Crown-Owned Company with a public service Charter. The Charter receives a small amount of government subsidy, but TVNZ remains predominantly dependent on commercial revenue and is obliged to continue paying dividends to the Crown.

It can apply to NZ On Air (funded directly from the government since 2000) for support in local content initiatives, such as drama and comedy, funding of programming for minority groups such as gay, Christian and rural New Zealanders, The funding of Maori programming has since passed to Te Mangai Paho the Maori broadcasting commission.

In 2004, the Maori Television Service was established to promote Maori language and culture. MTS is funded partly through direct government funding and partly through commercial advertising, but is eligible for contestable programming funds from Te Mangai Paho.

In 2006, the Government announced the introduction of two new non-commercial digital television services operated by TVNZ, offering drama, arts, documentary and children's programming calledTVNZ 6 & TVNZ 7. In 2011 the children's channel, TVNZ 6 was shut down, leaving New Zealand with no free to air children's television.


Freeview is a non-profit organisation providing free-to-air digital television and digital radio to New Zealand. The Freeview service is available via satellite throughout New Zealand. Freeview's terrestrial service, Freeview|HD, is a high definition digital terrestrial television service available to 75 percent of the country's population, using DVB-S and DVB-T standards on government provided spectrum.

Analogue switchoff in New Zealand is planned for when 75 percent of households have access to digital television, or 2012, whichever is sooner.[1] A tentative date will be set when digital uptake reaches 60% (55% reached as of November 2008).[2] A major benefit of digital television is the ability to overcome the poor reception caused by New Zealand's rugged topography.

It was estimated that on 31 December 2008, 198,938 Freeview certified set-top boxes and IDTVs had been sold since the platform's launch (146,416 Freeview, 52,522 Freeview|HD). It is estimated that Freeview is in 12,6% of New Zealand homes (roughly 420,000 people).[3] This makes it New Zealand's third largest television platform, and New Zealand's second largest digital platform. Freeview-certified set-top boxes and PVRs are available at most major New Zealand retailers. Cheaper, uncertified equipment can also be used.

Regional channels

New Zealand's deregulated broadcasting environment has led to many regional stations (either non-commercial public service or privately owned) that broadcast only in one region or city. These stations mainly broadcast free to air on UHF frequencies, however some are carried on subscription TV. Content ranges from local news, access broadcasts, satellite sourced news, tourist information and Christian programming to music videos. Over a dozen regional television stations in New Zealand are grouped by the Regional Broadcasters Association.

Free-to-air Satellite channels

Many digital channels are broadcast into New Zealand via satellite. These include Freeview, Sky Television, and many Australian and other channels. Most can be received using a standard blind-scan capable set-top box in addition to the standard 60 cm satellite dish that is fitted to many houses.

Pay television channels

New Zealand has a number of television channels that are, or have been, only available on pay television networks.

  • SKY Network Television: In 1990, SKY Network Television (then unrelated to its UK namesake) launched three pay-TV channels offering movies, sport and news on UHF these overtime expanded to five. In 1998 it launched a multichannel digital satellite TV service.
  • World TV: a Digital Broadcasting Media company, which broadcasts widely on Chinese TV and Radio shows and some on Korean and one channel on Japanese in New Zealand. WTV signals can only be received by Digital Set-top boxes serviced by SKY TV.
  • TelstraClear: currently operate a cable television network in Wellington, Kapiti and Christchurch. Customers can subscribe to plans incorporating between 25 and 48 channels. Most content is offered on behalf of SKY Network Television however some channels such as TBN, Discovery Travel and Adventure and Deutsche welle are broadcast exclusively through TelstraClear.

See also


Further reading

  • Horrocks, Roger & Nick Perry. 2004. Television in New Zealand : Programming the Nation. Auckland, N.Z. : Oxford University Press

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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