News is updated at a frantic pace and watched on increasingly large TVs and diminishing portable screens – you can even watch One News on your mobile phone. But there was only one way of watching it when the NZBC (now TVNZ) broadcast the first network news bulletin to New Zealanders 40 years ago today.
On the 3rd of November 1969 at 7:35pm history was created when Dougal Stevenson read the first network news bulletin – it was a live broadcast simultaneously transmitted on a series of microwave links around NZ and it began the daily ritual of sitting down in the early evening to watch the TV News.
“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.
“I’m sure most of the journalists, presenters, editors, camera operators and many other specialists who have played their part in bringing the news to New Zealanders across four decades treasure the experiences enormously and would describe the opportunity to have helped document New Zealand’s history as an absolute privilege”.
“When you think about some of the big events over the last four decades, many of the images burned into our memories are from the stories we saw on the news as Television New Zealand reported and recorded our history – the Olympic gold medals and hostage violence in Munich, controversy around Carless Days, the wreckage of Flight 901 strewn across Mt Erebus, the tension of the Springbok Tour, the outrage of the underarm incident, Lorraine Downs being crowned Miss Universe, the Berlin Wall coming down, Anna Paquin’s Oscar, Princess Diana’s death, the planes flying into the World Trade Centre, Sir Edmund Hillary’s funeral…”
“It’s undeniable that television news has impact, which is why we take the role of reporting and broadcasting it so seriously and overall I think we can be very proud of the news service we have provided to viewers”.
On the 25th of November TVNZ is hosting an event to mark the milestone. All of the former prime time network news presenters and news bosses and have been invited to the Auckland Television Centre for the evening so TVNZ can recognise the contribution they have all made to our news heritage.
“The event is an opportunity to say thank you to all of the people who have helped create a trusted news brand that is highly valued today”, says Flannery.
The evening will include a video roll of honour and footage showing how television news has evolved.
Anthony Flannery will speak about the contrast between then and now: “In the early days the small amounts of actual footage in the news was often days old before it arrived in New Zealand. There were no satellite feeds, little agility to include breaking news, no technology to report live from the scene, and there were no cameras in court or parliament”.
Even this historic broadcast wasn’t recorded – the first network news bulletin was watched by all viewers for the first time at the same time but has never been seen again. 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.
Philip Sherry, Dougal Stevenson and the late Bill Toft were our first network news readers and shared the nightly presenting role equally on a rotating roster.
Extracts from bulletins presented by these enduring household names can be seen at the link below. Clips presented by Philip Sherry are from May 5th 1970, clips presented by Dougal Stevenson are from October 26th 1971.
One clip from 1971 features 22 year old junior journalist, Kevin Milne reporting on the refugee crisis in Pakistan.
You can see the Dan News tribute here.[ad]