Ki­wis rule, bro

The trans-Tas­man TV in­va­sion that has some Aussies up in arms. Colin Vick­ery re­ports

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide - -

KIWI in­va­sion! Kiwi in­va­sion! If you be­lieve the scream­ing head­lines in re­cent weeks, you’d swear there was a full-on threat to Aus­tralia’s tele­vi­sion in­dus­try from our neigh­bours across the Tas­man.

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, cheap New Zealand-made pro­grams are set to flood our TV screens.

Screen Pro­duc­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ge­off Brown is lead­ing the anti-Kiwi charge, say­ing that ad­dress­ing the flow of Kiwi shows is a mat­ter of ur­gency.

Cur­rent reg­u­la­tions al­low Aus­tralian net­works to count New Zealand shows to­wards their Aus­tralian-con­tent quota re­quire­ment, and that’s not mak­ing him happy.

He says it’s all a ploy to cut costs by the net­works. He wants the gov­ern­ment to change the lo­cal con­tent rules so that New Zealand shows can’t be counted in the quota.

‘‘Re­mem­ber, for ev­ery hour of New Zealand pro­gram­ming go­ing to air, that’s an hour of Aus­tralian pro­gram­ming that doesn’t get up. They are treat­ing Aus­tralian view­ers as sec­ond-class cit­i­zens,’’ Brown has said.

Sure, the sum­mer pe­riod has seen an in­crease in the num­ber of New Zealand pro­duc­tions on our screens — ob­ser­va­tional se­ries Wild Vets and Coast­watch on Seven, soapie Or­ange Roughies on Ten, and fac­tual se­ries Po­lice Ten 7 on Nine.

The thing is, Aussie view­ers en­joyed them. Po­lice Ten 7 was es­pe­cially pop­u­lar, with about a mil­lion view­ers a week — ex­cel­lent rat­ings for a sum­mer show.

Nine Mel­bourne pro­gram di­rec­tor Len Downs says the quota doesn’t come into the net­work’s think­ing for Po­lice Ten 7 or one of the first New Zealand re­al­ity shows on Nine, Mo­tor­way Pa­trol.

In­stead, he says, the shows are im­me­di­ately com­pelling be­cause their New Zealand pro­duc­ers have much more co-op­er­a­tion from lo­cal po­lice and other au­thor­i­ties (in­clud­ing film­ing per­mis­sion and the use of of­fi­cial footage) com­pared with what’s avail­able to Aus­tralian pro­duc­ers.

‘‘It (the de­ci­sion to screen the shows) is based on whether we feel they have au­di­ence po­ten­tial,’’ Downs says.

‘‘They ( Mo­tor­way Pa­trol pro­duc­ers) were able to have more ac­cess (to po­lice footage) than we get. We fig­ured that made it watch­able and cou­pled with (UK re­al­ity se­ries) Air­line ful­filled a slot to get a pass­able au­di­ence.’’

It has to be said that New Zealand, for what­ever rea­son, does re­al­ity tele­vi­sion very well. It’s SCU: Se­ri­ous Crash Unit was the blue­print for Aussie se­ries Crash In­ves­ti­ga­tion Unit, hosted by Damian Wal­sheHowl­ing.

The chill­ing

Be­yond the Dark- lands, where foren­sic psy­chol­o­gist Nigel Latta pro­files no­to­ri­ous mur­der­ers, has also been given an Aussie makeover and is set to screen on Seven in com­ing months.

Pop­stars was a New Zealand con­cept. First screened there in 1999, it led to an Aussie ver­sion but, more im­por­tantly, was the in­spi­ra­tion for Si­mon Fuller’s Pop Idol fran­chise that would ul­ti­mately lead to Amer­i­can Idol and Aus­tralian Idol.

Less than 10 years af­ter its con­cep­tion, it’s one of the most suc­cess­ful TV for­mats of all time — sold to more than 50 coun­tries.

New Zealand re­al­ity con­cept Dream Home, a ren­o­va­tion pro­gram that gave two cou­ples $100,000 and the ser­vices of an in­te­rior de­signer and a builder to trans­form old houses, also spawned an Aus­tralian ver­sion.

David Bar­bour, who worked on Aus­tralian Dream Home, sub­se­quently teamed with Ju­lian Cress to cre­ate rat­ings hit The Block.

New Zealand tele­vi­sion pro­ducer John McEwen, the man be­hind Dream Home, was so in­censed when he saw The Block in 2003 that he threat­ened le­gal action.

‘‘Looking at their show there is no ques­tion The Block is de­rived from Dream Home,’’ he said at the time.

Nine started pro­ceed­ings in the Fed­eral Court in De­cem­ber 2004 on the ba­sis that McEwen’s claims were ground­less, and won.

Other New Zealand for­mats to have gained world sales in­clude Trea­sure Is­land (a pre­cur­sor to Sur­vivor that also had an Aus­tralian ver­sion) and The Chair, a quiz show where con­tes­tants are hitched up to heart mon­i­tors. A US ver­sion of The Chair is hosted by ten­nis leg­end John McEn­roe.

Not all New Zealand for­mats have been that suc­cess­ful, of course.

We do have to blame the Ki­wis for foist­ing The Re­sort on us. The lo­cal ver­sion, hosted by rocker Jon Stevens and cen­tred on a group of hope­fuls given 13 weeks to trans­form a Fi­jian re­sort, was a shocker that was quickly axed.

The other thing to re­mem­ber in this de­bate is that the num­ber of New Zealand shows on Aussie TV is a trickle com­pared with the num­ber of our shows on Kiwi TV (New Zealand doesn’t have a lo­cal-con­tent quota sys­tem).

A quick scan of the New Zealand TV guide shows that their screens are filled with ev­ery­thing from The Chop­ping Block to McLeod’s Daugh­ters, Neigh­bours, City Homi­cide, Who Wants To Be A Mil­lion­aire and Rove.

‘‘We’ve had Home and Away up the wa­zoo for more than a decade,’’ says lead­ing New Zealand ac­tor Robyn Malcolm, who stars in crime com­edy Ou­tra­geous For­tune (cur­rently show­ing on Fox­tel).

‘‘If we can pay you back in some way (by screen­ing some New Zealand shows in Aus­tralia) then there’s noth­ing wrong with that as far as I’m con­cerned.’’

No New Zealand would also mean no Re­becca Gib­ney, no Amaz­ing Race’s Phil Keoghan and no Spicks and Specks team cap­tain Alan Brough — all big stars on Aussie screens at the mo­ment.

Jane Wright­son, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Kiwi TV and ra­dio-fund­ing body New Zealand on Air, thinks com­plain­ing Aussie TV pro­duc­ers have got it wrong.

‘‘We have a very good in­dus­try here just as Aus­tralia has and it’s not a kind of war­fare zone,’’ she says.

‘‘I think both coun­tries face the same is­sue that al­most all coun­tries other than In­dia, China, and Amer­ica have, which is how to main­tain an ad­e­quate level of lo­cal con­tent.’’

Downs agrees and says any show ul­ti­mately stands or falls by whether peo­ple want to watch it or not.

‘‘Whether it comes from New Zealand, the UK or Amer­ica is be­side the point. If the thing ( Po­lice Ten 7) hadn’t have worked, we wouldn’t have con­tin­ued to play it,’’ he says.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.