40 not out for national news

dougal_031109_2It’s probably quite difficult for the instant gratification, on-demand, up-to-the-minute generation to believe, but back in the mists of time there only used to be one way to watch the news: on the telly.

And 40 years ago, on 3 November, 1969, the NZBC (now TVNZ) broadcast the first network news bulletin to New Zealanders.

Dougal Stevenson read the first network news bulletin and, along with Phillip Sherry and Bill Toft, soon became a regular feature in Kiwi living rooms.

Prior to this, news was a regional operation, with local stations based in the four main centres. Eventually a series of microwave links was set up and NZBC Network News was born.

“If you reflect on the number of news bulletins, staff, time and resources TVNZ has put into bringing news to all New Zealanders for the last 40 years it really has been a huge undertaking by a team you could only describe as dedicated,” says TVNZ’s Head of News and Current Affairs, Anthony Flannery.


And oh how things have changed.

“In the early days the small amounts of actual footage in the news was often days old before it arrived in New Zealand,” Flannery says. “There were no satellite feeds, little ability to include breaking news, no technology to report live from the scene and there were no cameras in court or parliament.”

Sadly, the first historic network broadcast wasn’t recorded. News stories and pictures were archived, but the full bulletin, including story intros read by news presenters, weren’t routinely recorded until the mid-1980s.

TVNZ is hosting an event on 25 November to mark the 40th and has invited all the former prime time network news presenters and news bosses to the Auckland Television Centre so they can be recognised for the contribution they have made to the country’s news heritage.

Extracts from some of the bulletins presented can be seen here (clips presented by Philip Sherry are from May 5th 1970, and clips presented by Dougal Stevenson are from October  26th 1971). And check out this nostalgic wee number from 1971, which includes a piece by 22-year-old journalist Kevin Milne reporting on the refugee crisis in Pakistan.

Kevin Milne

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