2 Sep 2021

NZ Screen History: Radio With Pictures

From Afternoons, 2:35 pm on 2 September 2021

From 1976 to 1988, Kiwi fans of alternative music could keep up with what was new and interesting via the Sunday night TV show Radio With Pictures.

Former host Karyn Hay and former producer Peter Blake chat with Jesse Mulligan about the show's cultural impact.

Radio With Pictures presenter Karyn Hay

 Karyn Hay hosting Radio With Pictures in the early '80s Photo: Supplied

Peter Blake, former producer of the TVNZ show Radio With Pictures

Peter Blake, former producer of the TVNZ show Radio With Pictures Photo: Peter Blake

Peter says Radio With Pictures was a kind of antidote to New Zealand's "middle of the road variety shows". He produced the show in tandem with others including the pop music show Ready to Roll.

Radio With Pictures featured local and international music videos, interviews with local and international acts, a gig guide, concert footage and documentaries.

The Radio With Pictures team sought to support local musicians and the formation of a New Zealand musical identity, including making music clips for local bands back when radio stations didn't play a lot of Kiwi content, he says.

"I think what we did was the beginning of NZ On Air and the brilliant stuff they're doing, encouraging pop clips, etc. nowadays."

One interesting perk of Peter's job at Radio With Pictures was picking up international music guests from the airport in his Honda Prelude and driving them to Avalon Studios with a chat on the way.

A couple of his favourite chats were with English rock singer Siouxsie Sioux and Uriah Heep guitarist Mick Box.

Karyn Hay, ONZM.

Karyn Hay, ONZM. Photo: supplied

Back in pre-internet New Zealand, international musicians felt they could get away with anything, says RNZ presenter Karyn Hay who hosted Radio With Pictures throughout the 1980s.

Although Candian folk-rocker Neil Young was "nice enough" as a person, Karyn says he had some opinions she found shocking and was surrounded by sycophants.

She herself didnt hold back when it came to making a play for the Radio With Pictures hosting job she won in 1981.

Karyn scored an audition by handwriting a letter to the Radio With Pictures producers saying she was the best person for the job.

"It was sassy and savvy and it really did work," Peter says.

Karyn says the workplace culture Peter created at Radio With Pictures was a big part of what made hosting it the best job she's ever had.

"Peter was a musician and an artist himself and he never imposed any control. Therefore he propagated an environment that was really without judgment. It was fun and we could do what we wanted to do and nobody was going to slap us on the wrist for doing it. I think that's why [Radio With Pictures] was so successful."