Media Releases

RNZ’s Checkpoint programme celebrates 50 years on air

Released at 11:02 am on 31 March 2017

RNZ’s Checkpoint programme celebrates 50 years on air next week. First broadcast on 3rd April 1967, it is the longest-running news and current affairs programme on radio or television in New Zealand.

Checkpoint was established in the days of the old NZBC as a radio current affairs programme providing up to the minute analysis and commentary on the news of the day. 50 years on, today’s Checkpoint with John Campbell is almost unrecognisable from the original twenty minute radio show broadcast on weekday evenings following the 9pm news bulletin.

The philosophy remains the same – a commitment to professional journalism that questions, illuminates, celebrates and holds newsmakers to account – but delivery is very different in a digital media environment worlds apart from that which existed in 1967.

Hundreds of researchers, producers, presenters and journalists have worked on the programme over the years, with many going on to high profile career positions in radio and television within New Zealand and overseas.

The format and broadcast times for Checkpoint have been modified many times in 50 years, moving around the weeknight evening schedule. For the first decade it remained a late evening half hour show but by 1980 it was firmly established and very popular in an early evening time slot.

The first dedicated host or presenter, Adele Broadbent, was introduced in 1994 when the programme was extended to 90 minutes. Mary Wilson presented Checkpoint for the longest period from 1997 to 2015 and her appointment as RNZ’s Director of News Programming in 2015 continues a long association with the Checkpoint team that started in 1994.

The new format Checkpoint with John Campbell, introduced in January 2016, represents a ground-breaking initiative for RNZ, reflecting a transformation from traditional radio broadcaster to a multi-platform media organisation capable of delivering quality content to meet rapidly changing audience demands.

Dubbed radio with pictures, Checkpoint with John Campbell is a fast-moving mixture of video and audio packages, and live and pre-recorded interviews. Guests are as likely to beam in via Skype as they are to appear in the Auckland or Wellington studios.

While still broadcast live on AM and FM radio frequencies, Checkpoint can be viewed as a video live-stream on the RNZ website or, in most centres, on Freeview channel 50. It is also available on the RNZ mobile app for iPhone or Android, or via satellite on the Sky Digital network on channel 421.

Checkpoint attracts a large drive time audience with latest live radio figures showing 239,000 people tuning in. Many more view the programme live on Facebook, on Freeview Channel 50, or via the live video stream on RNZ’s website. There is strong engagement and audience interaction via social media and many people revisit the content archive online after it is first broadcast.

The anniversary will be celebrated on air next Monday 3rd April with a mix of archival audio from the programme together with anecdotes from some of those involved over the years.

Plans are also under way for a Checkpoint fiftieth anniversary reunion in Wellington in late May. Organised by former Checkpoint team members it will involve presenters, reporters, some politicians, and regular contributors who have featured on the programme over the last half century.