Television here is a mixture of American, British and home grown. There are only three channels, all of which have long commercial breaks every seven minutes. The advertisements are mostly pretty unsophisticated, and may well refer to a special offer at the local bike shop. I find I hire more videos, mainly in an attempt to have an ‘advertisement free’ evening!
New Zealand does not produce many homegrown television shows and as a result the majority of programmes are either British or American. American chatshows and sitcoms are dotted throughout the evenings entertainment, which is great if they are to your taste, but often difficult to avoid if they not.
Popular British favourites like The Bill, Casualty and Heartbeat are screened and repeats of classics like Only Fools and Horses and Faulty Towers appear periodically. English drama series are often televised here. Coronation Street, Eastenders and Home and Away are all shown, but are not always given the priority screening times, that they enjoy in the UK.
The home grown shows are mostly documentary type programmes, which can give you a good insight into New Zealand. The quiz shows are similar to those you will be used to, but with New Zealand hosts and contestants. Shortland Street, the only ’soap’ produced here is proving to be a huge success.
Children’s television is low budget and there are no quality programmes like “Blue Peter” or “Newsround”. The equivalent to “Playschool” always includes the Maori language in counting and singing activities.
The early evening news is shown at 6.00pm and concentrates mainly on national news. The style of interviewing is refreshingly gentle and seemingly trivial stories are often reported. There is nowhere near the amount of International news that you will be used to. Only limited coverage is given to world news and this can result in you losing track. Although for the keen, the World News can be seen at 7 am each morning.
The late evening news programme, normally screened around 10.30pm, is more ‘lightweight’ in it’s content and if this becomes your only source of news you will quickly lose all contact with what is happening in the world at large.
Occasional news from Britain is reported, but you can go for weeks without a mention of England, or even of the Royals. At first it is difficult to accept that what is happening in England is of little interest to the average New Zealander, but in time obviously it becomes less relevant to you as well.
Programmes that would be considered unsuitable for children in England and not screened until after 9.30pm often appear early in the evening. You might find you have to censor the TV viewing if you have young children.
I have heard it said that when Kiwis aren’t playing sport, they are watching it on TV. I do not know how much truth there is in this claim, but there certainly seems to be considerable coverage and I have seen the news postponed and soaps cancelled altogether should they interfere with a big match. This underlines the place sport has in the Kiwi mind - its massive.
Rugby and Cricket fans are more than adequately catered for with all the big matches being covered. Saturday afternoons are also devoted to sports fans. Horse-racing is televised and yachting, netball and basketball all have their seasons. For the lover of Wimbledon, if you are prepared to stay up half the night you can watch the final matches live. English football is rarely shown, only FA cup finals make it to the screen.
There are always plenty of films on and Saturday night is family film night, but again the constant commercial breaks take a bit of getting used to.
Not surprisingly Sky television enjoys a good presence, with the talk of cable television soon to become a reality.