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NZ On Air Passes 10,000 Hours

Amid the hype surrounding the New Zealand film industry's success overseas, NZ On Air is marking a milestone of its own at home. Towards the end of 2001, NZ On Air clocked up its 10,000th hour of funded television since the agency was set up in 1989.

"It's a phenomenal achievement, reflecting the combined efforts of producers, writers, directors, cast and crew that number in the thousands," said NZ On Air chief executive, Jo Tyndall.

Now in its thirteenth year, NZ On Air can cite an impressive list of programmes made in New Zealand, by New Zealanders for New Zealanders. Jo Tyndall said the range of programmes is vast, and the depth of the talent involved, nothing short of remarkable.

"No-one would dispute the success of a programme like Shortland Street, which got its start with NZ On Air funding - and has carried on under its own steam for the last six years. Name almost any TV writer, actor or director and it's likely he or she has spent some time on Shortland Street," she said.

Some of the programmes originally funded in 1989, like Praise Be and Tagata Pasifika are still there today, and a second generation is growing up watching the What Now? gunge machine do its worst.

"We're producing drama that rivals the best in the world with programmes like Mercy Peak, Mataku and Street Legal. Being Eve showed we can break new ground with children's drama," said Ms Tyndall.

"Television production in this country is strong, and it's great to feel NZ On Air has played its part. We are here to take the risks that would be difficult for broadcasters, and provide programming for audiences whose interests aren't mainstream, in a way that adds huge diversity to the New Zealand TV diet."

Programmes funded through NZ On Air have become firm favourites over the years, from documentaries as diverse as Nude Zealand, Pioneer House and New Zealand Wars, to memorable drama like Shark in the Park, Bread and Roses and Marlin Bay. Kiwis have laughed along with The Billy T James Show, Market Forces and Spin Doctors.

There have been arts programmes like Backch@t and The Big Art Trip, and Maori programmes like My Kainga My Castle. Suzy's World and Bumble have created stars out of their presenters for pre-schoolers. "Obviously with 10,000 hours not everything has succeeded, but a very high proportion has. It's a highly competitive process for funding, and that usually works in favour of quality. The country's broadcasters are committed to screening good New Zealand television, so the breadth of what's being seen is going from strength to strength," said Ms Tyndall.

"For television, these are exciting and challenging times, with a Charter for TVNZ, more channels in the market, and the options provided by digital broadcasting. That means opportunities for more and better local production, and exciting times for NZ On Air as well," she said.

The achievement of 10,000 hours of NZ On Air funded television will be marked with a celebration at Parliament on Thursday, hosted by the Minister of Broadcasting, Hon Marian Hobbs.


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