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NZOA research: Kiwifruit responds

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By News Staff - 28th September 2006

Amanda Rees, researcher and presenter on TVNZ's LGBT programme Kiwifruit, has responded to critical research conducted by NZ On Air.

The research indicated 70% of gay and lesbian television audiences do not like Kiwifruit, generally criticising the programme for a perceived ‘shallow' superficial coverage of LGBT issues.

Rees points out there are inherent issues around quoting numerical statistics, as the research done was qualitative, not quantitative. “A more accurate statistic would be to say 48 people were asked if they liked Kiwifruit, with 23 saying they didn't like the episode they watched,” Rees explains. “Of those 48, a third hadn't seen Kiwifruit, and of the 30-odd people who had watched the show, most had only watched ‘once, occasionally twice.' The research gives another statistic: only 16 of the 48 people interviewed had seen an episode of Outhouse – probably a good indication of how many people in the focus group were late night TV viewers.”

However, Rees says it's important to consider the opinions of those 23 people who told researchers they didn't like the programme. “Part of our role as producers is to monitor feedback, making sure we seek and listen to criticism. We think that their criticism of the show being ‘lightweight' was appropriate for the episode or two that screened around the time of the research.” At that stage, the show's stories ran at about 4-6 minutes each, but from the following episode onwards, stories were running closer to 7 minutes.

Ratings-wise, Kiwfruit has been fairly consistently good, says Rees. The programme is often the most-watched in it's timeslot with TV2's target audience of 18-39 year olds. “We generally have a slightly lower viewership than the programme before us, but so do all the channels, as people go to bed.”

“Feedback directly to us has been mostly from 16 to 24 year olds, often from small towns. We've had no direct negative feedback - people who email are writing to say how much they like it. We've of course received the negative feedback submitted via Express and so we're aware of both sides of the coin and always keen to receive more direct feedback, good or bad.”

Rees suggests the late-night time slot has to be taken into consideration in deciding the kind of programme they produce. “We ask ourselves: who of the LGBT community is still up at 11pm and watching TV? Do they want strong political stories? Our absolute rock-bottom ratings occurred on the night we opened with a story on the increase of HIV, and also fairly low ratings were recorded when we screened a half hour special on 20th Anniversary of Homosexual Law Reform – a good meaty coverage of an important period of our history.

“If we just took the ratings into account, we wouldn't report on any serious political or social issues. However, we know that there are viewers who want to see social and political stories so we'll continue to make them. Therefore whilst we take on board a criticism of lightness, we have to balance it with a knowledge of who wants to watch TV at 11pm in practise, not just in theory, and what level of seriousness or otherwise those people want for that time of night.”

Rees says the Kiwifruit team would love to do another series next year. “We have met with both NZ On Air and TVNZ and both those meetings were very constructive and positive towards Kiwifruit. Ultimately it's a decision to be made between TVNZ and NZ On Air – one which we expect to be made in November.

“So far, Kiwifruit has done stories on clubs, events, issues (like coming out at work, at home, and at school); Fence Jumping (Hetero to Homo); HIV increasing; 20th Anniversary of Law Reform; Portrayal of gays in the media; Civil Union planning; the rise of far right anti-homosexual propaganda; use of homosexuality as a defence for murder; and a history of NZ transgender people. But there are many, many more stories we would like to cover.”

The last Kiwifruit episode of the year is broadcast on TV2, 11pm Tuesday 3rd October.

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