For a country of only some 4.3 million inhabitants, New Zealand has a vibrant media scene. Auckland claims to have more radio stations per capita than any other city in the world, and magazine racks are crammed with Kiwi-produced weeklies and monthlies. The standard of media coverage sometimes leaves a little to be desired, but for the most part this is a well-informed country with sophisticated tastes. Online, a good starting point is w, the leading Kiwi blog site.

TV

New Zealanders receive five main free-to-air broadcast channels, a handful of local channels and Sky TV (which you’ll find in most motels).

The biggest broadcaster is the state-owned TVNZ, which operates two advertising-heavy channels. TV ONE has slightly older and more information-based programming while TV2 is younger and more entertainment-oriented. Both channels present a diet of local news, current affairs, sport, drama and entertainment, plus a slew of US, British and Australian programmes: you’ll find most of your favourites, often three to six months behind. Visitors may already be acquainted with long-running, home-grown Kiwi soap opera, Shortland Street, set in the fictional suburb of Ferndale in Auckland.

The main opposition comes from TV3, which pitches itself roughly between TV ONE and TV2, and Prime, backed by Sky TV, which often has quirkier programming.

Maori TV launched in 2004 with substantial government support (though it also has ads). Broadcasting in Maori and English, it promotes the language and culture but is far from a stuffy educational channel. Along with good movies and engaging Maori language lessons, you might catch Maori cooking shows, lifestyle makeovers, sitcoms and Maori angles on news, current affairs and sport.

Radio

New Zealand has few countrywide radio stations, but syndication means that some commercial stations can be heard in many parts of the country, with local commercials. All websites listed stream the channel over the internet.

For news, current affairs and a thoughtful look at the arts and music, tune into the government-funded Radio New Zealand National (101.0–101.6 FM; w), which is the nearest New Zealand gets to, say, NPR or BBC Radio 4. You’ll pick it up most places, though there are blank spots. Its sister station, Radio New Zealand Concert (89–100 FM), concentrates on classical music.

Though often amateurish, student radio stations provide excellent and varied “alternative” listening in their home cities. In Auckland tune to bFM (95.0; w); in Wellington to Active (89.0; w); in Christchurch to RDU (98.5; w); and in Dunedin to Radio One (91.0; w).

The rest of the airwaves are clogged by commercial stations: keep an ear out for KiwiFM (102.1–102.5; w), predominantly Kiwi music to Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury.

Newspapers and magazines

New Zealand has no national daily newspaper, but rather four major regional papers (all published Mon–Sat mornings) as well as a plethora of minor rags of mostly local interest. All are politically fairly neutral. The North Island is shared between the Auckland-based New Zealand Herald (
w
) and Wellington’s Dominion Post (w), while The Press (w) covers Christchurch and its environs, and the Otago Daily Times (w) serves the far south of the country. All offer a pretty decent selection of national and international news, sport and reviews, often relying heavily on wire services and syndication deals with major British and American newspapers. On Sunday, check out the tabloid-style Sunday News; the superior, broadsheet Sunday Star-Times; or Auckland’s Herald on Sunday.

Kiwi newspaper journalists get little scope for imaginative or investigative journalism, though the broad-ranging and slightly left-leaning weekly magazine the Listener (w) does its best. With coverage of politics, art, music, TV, radio, books, science, travel, architecture and much more, it’s perhaps the best overall insight into what makes New Zealand tick.

Topics are covered in greater depth in the nationwide monthly North and South, though for an insight into the aspirations of Aucklanders you might be better off with the snappier glossy, Metro.

Specialist magazines cover the range: Wilderness (w) has a good spread of tramping, kayaking, climbing and mountain biking, and Real Groove is the best of the general music mags.

The bi-monthly Mana (w) pitches itself as “the Maori news magazine for all New Zealanders”, and gives an insight into what sometimes seems like a parallel world barely acknowledged by the mainstream media. It is in English, but comes peppered with Maori words and concepts, with a convenient glossary.

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