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PM: Address at Launch of Sky Documentary Channel

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at
Launch of Sky Documentary Channel

24 France Street, Newton

5.45 pm

Friday 3 November 2006

Thank you for the invitation to be part of the launch of Sky’s new documentary channel – a very welcome development from my point of view, as a fan of the documentary genre.

World wide, documentary films are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. At international film festivals, they are now as eagerly-anticipated and attended as the feature films on the programmes.

The New Zealand International Documentary Film Festival has recently been held for the second time, with more films showing at more venues than a year before. From its beginnings in 2005 with venues primarily in Auckland and peripherally in Wellington, the DOCNZ festival this year expanded to screen in the four main centres.

This reflects the growing popularity of both international and locally-produced documentaries, and is also a reflection of the ongoing interest we New Zealanders have not only in our own stories, but in the stories of other peoples and places too.

This bodes well for a dedicated documentary channel of quality.

NZ On Air's 2005 Public Information and Opinion Monitor found that New Zealand documentaries continue to be the most frequently watched programmes in our households.

And we do have a tradition of excellent documentary making. Some of our most celebrated filmmakers have expressed their creative talent not only in feature films, but also in documentaries; Roger Donaldson, Merata Mita, Barry Barclay, Gaylene Preston, and Vincent Ward, for example, have all excelled in the documentary genre.

Documentaries can inform, entertain, provoke, and challenge.

The versatility of the genre lends itself to the making and screening of hard-hitting and controversial opinion. It also allows for the preservation of commentary on contemporary issues, and of biographical material which will be of historical interest for future generations.

In an age of digital communications technology, television companies have the opportunity to provide specific content to niche segments of the viewing audience. Sky’s initiative in developing a documentary channel is a very welcome step for those of us who enjoy this type of programming.

Indeed, looking at the programme highlights for the next two months, I see a number of programmes which to me look like compelling viewing:

• Doug Aubrey’s harrowing story from Kosovo,
• Primetime War which follows the role of media in coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
• the shocking story of the poisoning of Victor Yuschenko in Ukraine,
• “The Man Who Drove With Mandela” and
• “Hostage” dealing with hostage crises.

All these look like quality documentaries giving fresh insights into events and people we need to know more about.

And of course I wouldn’t want to miss “Father of the House”, a documentary about my old friend and colleague Jonathan Hunt, who I understand just happens to be the very first subscriber to Sky in New Zealand.

I wish Richard Driver and his team at the Documentary Channel all the best for Sunday’s launch on the Sky Platform, and wish it every success.


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