Article Title:The Future of Queer Television - An Overview
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Published on:17th November 2003 - 12:00 pm
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Story ID:126
Text:Queer Nation executive producer Johnny Givins addresses the queer television symposium convened by TVNZ on 10 November 2003. In this changing world, it is important that we take time to look at what we have been doing in the past and clarify what potential paths there are for our future - that a queer television symposium is happening at all is amazing to me, that TVNZ wishes to discuss with the community and the programme makers the future of queer television is a breakthrough. Not only does it signal a refreshing view on programme content and production but also the developments and changes which have occurred in the last ten years in our national culture. It is clear that the days of exclusion are numbered. The attitude of acceptance of diversity, truth to ourselves is overpowering, as Justice Kirby so eloquently stated a year ago at the opening of the Gay Games in Sydney, "We are on the way to enlightenment and there will be no u-turns." Queer Nation has been a highly visible part of this development in NZ. Today is not just about Queer Nation, its scope is far wider. However Queer Nation has been "Our" programme and is a good place to start our discussions about the future of queer television. I am sure during today speakers will trace the development of our struggle for recognition and potentials for the future, and we still have a great need for vigilance to protect our freedoms. We are long way from having to stand up at GOFTA and berate an actor for negative stereotypes in Are You Being Served?. The 60's analogue closet and 1970's screamers and the cardboard cuttouts fortunately have mostly become part of our broadcasting history, to be replaced with a huge array of characters, stories and events in which our community are the stars. We are complex people with individual stories. In any week this year, you will find on our television programmes mostly out and proud queer characters in drama, singing, entertaining, cooking, gardening, being criminals, burying our dead. We were the strange people, the odd ones, the different, the characters who died before the final reel. Queer Nation has been part of the change in attitude. The message - throw away your stereotypes, we are everywhere. We are different, we all have different stories and different lives and we are all ages and we are not going to go away! The attitude to our stories has changed in recent years. Only this week, the Listener editorial uses a queer television programme style and content to comment on the changes in the National Party leadership.. The interesting thing is that ten years ago such writing would have been quite different, most probably trying to smear a politician with the queer label. This editorial was different, made its point, and certainly the National party could use a good "makeover with the Queer Eye". However, my point is that in addition to the fun aspect, the content of the editorial was serious and communicated a wide range of truths about the state of the National Party and its leaders, but the humour was not a putdown of the gays - we are now laughing with, not laughing at, the queers. Like our lives, this story is developing day by day… We are wanting to discuss with you what directions are possible for our storytelling, serving our people and communicating with a wider audience. Queer Nation has been the vanguard of television programmes for our community for eight seasons. I became involved with the programme in 1998 when I joined with Andrew, Nettie and Libby. Since 1999 we have produced 40 programmes each year for TV2. There have been lots of developments working with a wide range of talented people. We have lived our lives within the queer community, so naturally we have reflected the developments and changes which have been around us. We have just been received notification from NZ ON Air will support a further season of 13 Queer Nation programmes early in 2003. I will let Andrew deal with the developments of the programme and our experience in making the programme. At this stage I will say that Queer Nation provides a high-quality unique view of our community that is well known, recognized and appreciated by a wide audience thoughout the country. Queer television has been pioneered by Nettie Kinmont, Andrew Whiteside and Libby McGee. It was through their energy and commitment to the idea of a queer programme made by queers for queers against all sorts of objections which has led the success of "Queer Nation". When Andrew and I were discussing the future of "Queer Nation" with Tony our major feedback we had from our audience was timeslot. It is the single most vocal comment we have heard for several years. It was the major focus of NZ On Air research two years ago, and it has been raised by us with the network every year. We need an earlier time slot. And we got nowhere.. Tony, being an upfront sort of a guy went WHY NOT?? and asked the question of the programmers… and got an answer… the show was "not suitable for earlier time slot"….that was the first time we had received that information...up to then we were told it was a "commercial decision". So Tony proactively said, "if it's the show lets change the show." We now have the opportunity to look at the Queer Nation and see what's good about it, and what sort of changes can be made to the flagship programme that could increase its appeal to our own community and the television audience. First of all, make no mistake - Queer Nation has made a difference. The stories we tell, the people we interview, and the places we go to have changed peoples perceptions of themselves and their place in the world. I look forward to our discussions your opinions and viewpoints on the future of our stories on our television for the benefit of those that follow in our stead. - 17th November 2003    
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