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Deconstructing Documentaries

Deconstructing Documentaries

New Zealand television viewers have an almost insatiable appetite for locally made documentaries. However recent NZ On Air research has found that there is room for a shift in the types of programmes being produced, and the way their subject matter is handled. These issues, and others related to documentary making in New Zealand will be discussed at an NZ On Air symposium being held in Auckland on Friday.

"Two surveys, the results of which were published last year, concluded that people are avid viewers of most of the local documentaries on television. They say they want more, but they'd like to see a better balance between lighter documentaries and more in-depth programmes," said NZ On Air Chief Executive, Jo Tyndall. "At the moment there's a feeling that the balance has drifted a little too far towards the sensational end of the spectrum."

"This year we commissioned a documentary discussion paper from Professor Roger Horrocks of the Department for Film, TV & Media Studies at the University of Auckland. Roger was an NZ On Air Board member in the early years, and he's presented us with an excellent piece of work that we'll use as a base for the symposium discussions.

"In setting up the symposium, we've pulled together ideas from broadcasters and producers, too," said Ms Tyndall. "There is a consensus that while the overall quality of New Zealand documentaries is very high, there is a sameness creeping in that we are all keen to address."

Keynote speaker at the NZ On Air symposium is acclaimed Australian documentary maker, Brian Beaton, of Artemis International. Mr Beaton was awarded the Screen Production Association of Australia's documentary producer of the year title for 2002.

"Brian has a wealth of experience with a string of very successful projects to his credit. He'll be showing some samples of his work, and talking about the documentary-making process, comparing New Zealand and Australian styles," Ms Tyndall said.

"The symposium is an opportunity for broadcasters and programme makers to work through the way the New Zealand documentary has developed, and where to go from here. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel. We're providing a forum for industry professionals to toss around ideas and decide how to get more spark into a television genre that New Zealand viewers have loved for the last decade."

This media release, details of the NZ On Air documentary symposium and full audience survey reports are all available on the internet at

Survey Details:

NZ On Air Public Opinion and Information Monitor (August 2002) Attitudes to NZ On Air Funded TV Programming (October 2002)

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