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Teenagers love seeing Kiwi culture on screen

From bro‘Town to Shortland Street – teenagers love seeing Kiwi culture on screen

“The need for local programming is great for this reason: the more New Zealand content on our screens…the more Kiwi we will become.”
Jehan Casinader, Year 11
Hutt International Boys’ School

New Zealand’s teenagers care passionately about seeing themselves on air, and have shown they want to see even more.

NZ On Air – an agency with a mandate to fund locally made quality programmes that reflect and promote New Zealand’s unique culture and identity – has run an essay competition, asking 11 to 18 year olds for their thoughts and opinions on the importance of having New Zealand-made programmes on their TV screens.

NZ On Air’s Acting Chief Executive, Bernard Duncan, said the agency had been stunned by the interest in the competition, with nearly one thousand entries flooding in from all over the country.

The winners for each age group are:

- Year 7-9: Milika Tuinukuafe (Year 9, St Mary’s College, Ponsonby)

- Year 10-11: Jehan Casinader (Year 11, Hutt International Boys’ School, Upper Hutt)

- Year 12-13: Rachael Amundsen (Year 12, Waimea College, Nelson)

They were among intermediate and high school students who offered their praise, criticism and analysis of home-grown TV; in particular programmes like bro‘ Town, Shortland Street, Sticky TV, What Now?, NZ Idol, and Dancing with the Stars.

Mr Duncan said that NZ On Air was established around the time many of the essay writers were born.

“Today’s school students are the first generation to have grown up with such a strong local television industry, so their views on how the mass media reflects and influences their culture are extremely important.

“The vast majority of entrants said they valued local television that mirrored their lives. They loved seeing New Zealand culture on air – our humour, locations, and faces. They also loved hearing New Zealand accents,” he said.

The competition was split into three age groups: years 7-9, 10-11 and 12-13. Each group was asked different questions, but all centred on whether it’s important to see New Zealand-made programmes on television, how those programmes compare with overseas, how they influence our culture, our behaviour and attitudes, and how the programmes could be improved.

Announcing the winners this evening at a ceremony in Wellington, Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey said he was impressed by the quality of the entries and the insights they offered to programme-makers and broadcasters.

"Young New Zealanders are welcoming the growth we've had in local programming, and they're keen to ensure this continues. They're also very clear that it’s important to see their own culture reflected and reinforced through mass media."

The three winners receive a behind-the-scenes tour of their choice of NZ On Air-funded television programmes NZ Top of the Pops and What Now?.

Bernard Duncan said the students’ comments would be summarised and passed on to the producers of the television programmes.

“But we’ll also be taking notice of them ourselves,“ he said. “These observations and opinions are important. We’ll use this input, along with more formal research, as part of our funding policy development.”

NZ On Air has funded more than 11,000 hours of local television since its inception in 1989. It contributes around 20 percent of local total content hours on free-to-air television (TV1, TV2, TV3, and most recently, Prime).


NZ On Air Essay Competition – Media Backgrounder

- Nearly 1000 students from around the country entered the competition, which ran during Term 2 (April – 8 July). It was divided into three age groups: years 7-9, 10-11 and 12-13.

- The competition challenged students to consider the value of locally produced programmes.

- NZ On Air was delighted with the response. Nearly 1000 entries flooded in from students throughout New Zealand, including Northland, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Masterton, Nelson, Clyde and Kimbolton.

- The overwhelming majority of entrants valued New Zealand-made programmes, and said they wanted to see more of them.

- They said they loved seeing familiar issues and situations portrayed on the television, and they enjoyed seeing Maori and Polynesian faces, hearing Kiwi accents, and spotting locations they recognised.

- Programmes such as bro’ Town and Shortland Street were particularly popular because they reminded them of their homes, their lives, or the lives of people they knew.

- They thought that television was a powerful medium that not only reflected, but also shaped our culture. While they agreed that these programmes obviously showed what life in New Zealand was like, they said that they, in turn, mimicked some of the language used by the programmes’ characters. For example, many who wrote about bro’ Town said they used words like “bro”, “dawg”, “aw” and “peu peu” and “Morningside for life”.

- Although the entrants were positive about New Zealand programmes in general, many also suggested ways they thought they could be improved. Many asked for longer formats, and series that spanned the whole year.

- Positive role models and situations were important to the entrants. Essayists praised programmes which featured positive role models and situations, and asked for even more in all of the programmes they watch.

- Overall, the greatest demand was to see more of their own images, stories and languages on air.

Excerpts from essays

“Having New Zealand programmes on TV boosts our confidence and awareness of our own culture. We need to be proud of the great things we have achieved, need to ensure we tell stories about our history. As a whole, we need to promote New Zealand culture. It’s who we are.” Twyla Housby, Year 11, Glen Eden

“Our home-grown, Kiwi programmes have a language that is quite different. It is unique and made more so by the distinctly New Zealand characters that deliver it. They refer to our society and people and events with a humour that is not made to clap loudly and hoot at (like some Americans), but in a way we recognise.” Jessica Burns-Grant, Year 11, Christchurch

“The loving hosts [on What Now?] are more like friends to the children of our nation and demonstrate proper morals and values, adding in a bit of fun along the way.” Hayley Osborne, Year 10, Hamilton

“[bro’ Town] is a very Kiwi show with a Polynesian/Maori slant. Their neighbourhood could be mine. … the situations the kids face are often similar to my own problems and I can relate to them.” Joel Griffin, Year 7, Browns Bay

“If we see American, Australian, English programmes and music on TV all the time, children would start talking like them and not have NZ role models to look up to on TV.” Natasha Baylor, Year 8, Rangiora

“When we inject that burst of Kiwiana; that dash of Aotearoa’s identity into even the most culturally generic formats like Idol, we make them distinctly New Zealand.” Winning student Jehan Casinader, Year 11, Lower Hutt

“All my friends watch [bro’ Town] and the next day we talk about it a lot.” Rowan Clifton, Year 8, Masterton

“I believe that bro’ Town would be a better programme if they introduced a caring adult and a child with clear goals. Then we could all join in with the boys and say ‘Morningside for Life!’” Winning student Milika Tuinukuafe, Year 9, Panmure

“[Shortland Street] comes up with everyday problems that a lot of New Zealanders experience in their lives and it shows responsible ways of dealing with these issues, for example Judy had a drinking problem, and Craig convinced her to see a professional counselor to help her with her problem. I am sure this storyline inspired a lot of New Zealanders to do the same.” Amy Dunbar, Year 10, Dunedin

“It is fundamentally important that this adopted community [i.e.: television] provides and promotes people who hold the same values as the society its audience belongs to. We need more New Zealand television with New Zealanders’ values if we want subsequent generations to embrace these values.” Winning student Rachael Amundsen, Year 12, Nelson

“bro’ Town confronts and challenges these issues and morals in our society, so not only are you being entertained while you watch bro’ Town, but you are challenging your own opinions and beliefs.” Ashleigh Wilding, Year 10, Hamilton
“Another good thing about [Shortland Street] is there is a character that almost everyone can relate to, whether it’s Serena with separating parents, Mya the lesbian, Skye with difficulties fitting in, or even Dylan with a shady past.” Jessica Martin, Year 10, Hamilton.

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