}

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Change on NZ TV screens


Tonight longtime TVNZ broadcaster Peter Williams signed off for the last time, nearly 40 years after his career began. He’s been a familiar face on New Zealand TV screens for so long that a couple generations have grown up seeing him. Nearly four decades is a long time for any broadcaster.

Peter Williams has been on TV the entire time I’ve been in New Zealand, among the last I could say that about. In all those years, he was always professional, generally matter-of-fact, especially when presenting the news, and not over dramatic or sensational. It’s difficult to find people who have anything unpleasant to say about him. When he left the studio for the last time, he received an “honour guard” of colleagues sending him off.

It’s possible that his “nicest guy in broadcasting” image may change in January next year when he joins rival media company Media Works “Magic Talk” station, a combined talkback radio and music station that will replace the company’s “RadioLIVE” talkback radio network. “I have plenty of thoughts and opinions on various issues, formed from having quite a few years on this planet," he said last month when the new role was announced. “I'm really enthusiastic about sharing my views with those who call, email or text in.”

This may be what’s sometimes called an “inside baseball” thing, possibly unlikely to be of any interest to people who are not from this country. However, anyone wanting to understand another country would do well to look at its media and its shared cultural touchstones. This is one of those things for understanding New Zealand.

Just before Williams’ final sign off, fellow news presenters Wendy Petrie and Simon Dallow, who anchor the news Monday to Friday evenings, presented a retrospective video of his career (below) which may help to place him in the broader context of NZ pop culture.

In any case, everything changes, nothing stays the same forever. Tonight something reasonably significant changed in New Zealand, and that’s worth noting.

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