Story: Rural media

Country calendar is New Zealand’s longest-running TV show – a sign of New Zealanders’ affection for the countryside. From the newspapers of the 19th century to the internet today, a range of media have kept both city and country dwellers informed about rural life.

Story by Nancy Swarbrick
Main image: Listening to the radio at home

Story summary

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Newspapers and journals

From the early days of European settlement, newspapers covered farming news. Journals informed farmers about animal, land and machinery sales, and tasks to be done on the farm. Farming families in isolated places relied on these papers for news.


Today, farmers can get information from the internet. There are many New Zealand websites about farming.


Radio broadcasts began in New Zealand in the 1920s. They soon became popular, helping farmers feel less isolated. City people also often listened to the programmes. William Goodfellow, founder of the New Zealand Cooperative Dairy Company, helped set up a national radio network.

At first, mainly music was broadcast – then news, weather forecasts and special farming shows began. From the 1930s, there were programmes for pupils of small country schools and Correspondence School pupils. After the Second World War more radio programmes were made for farmers, but these were cut in the late 1980s.


Television began broadcasting in New Zealand in 1960. Like other media, it provided farmers with information and entertainment, and showed city people images of rural life. By the late 20th century, most New Zealanders lived in cities – but many still thought of the country as the ‘real’ New Zealand, and enjoyed watching programmes about it.

Country calendar was the first farming programme. It started in 1966, and was still going in 2022 – making it New Zealand’s longest-running TV show. It focused on personal farming stories, and sometimes played jokes on its audience.

Some drama programmes have been set in the country. In the 1970s, comedian John Clarke became famous as his character Fred Dagg, a farmer who wore a black singlet and gumboots and had a deadpan sense of humour.

Advertisements for products such as food and cars often appeal to New Zealanders’ fondness for country life.

How to cite this page:

Nancy Swarbrick, 'Rural media', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 June 2024)

Story by Nancy Swarbrick, published 24 November 2008