Media moves: RNZ and Māori Television look to form closer ties

by John Drinnan / 10 May, 2018

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Māori TV's former CEO has been appointed chair of RNZ's board, replacing Richard Griffin. Photo / RNZ

As RNZ and Māori Television look to get more cozy, how will the state broadcaster's main audience react, wonders John Drinnan.

Radio New Zealand is expected to form closer ties with Māori Television to increase its Māori content.

The Government this week appointed new chairmen to both public broadcasters. Jim Mather, a CEO of Māori Television for nine years, has been appointed chairman of Radio NZ, replacing Richard Griffin.

Jamie Tuuta - the highly regarded Māori businessman - has been made chairman of Māori TV, replacing Georgina Te Heu Heu.

A well-placed source said that the closer ties had been talked about for a long time.

When asked if she saw a closer relationship between RNZ and Māori TV, Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran said collaboration was a good thing.

“If you look at RNZ they are already very good at working with a wide range of media organisations. They’ve got more than 20 content sharing partnerships currently, with more to come.

"Māori broadcasting perspectives are important to this Government and are already being considered within the Government’s wider broadcasting policy work.  I’m working alongside the Minister for Māori Development, Hon Nanaia Mahuta, to ensure these perspectives are incorporated in the wider context. I’ve asked RNZ, TVNZ and NZ On Air to share skills and expertise. Exactly how that happens is up to each organisation’s Board and management."

Sources say the government will be encouraging Mather and Tuuta to work closely together. Both organisations are in transition. RNZ is developing its multi-media video arm including longer-term plans for a free to air TV channel, an expensive area where it has no experience. The departure of Carol Hirschfeld – ironically over her secret and pre-organised meeting with the broadcasting minister - has exacerbated that deficit.

RNZ has been under pressure from Labour at select committee hearings to reach the Māori audience and deliver Māori content. Former high profile Māori broadcaster and radio host Willie Jackson is leader of the Māori caucus, and will be advising Māori Development minister Nanaia Mahuta, who oversees Māori TV.

While the distribution for the proposed RNZ+ TV network is unclear, Māori TV has two TV networks ready to go and the ability to produce low-cost TV content.

The challenge is for Radio NZ to reach Māori without alienating its largely middle-class white audience. 

Māori and political activists might say that issue irrelevant - that RNZ has a duty under its charter to reach Māori. But Radio NZ is an important institution for journalism and all culture, not just Māori.

For its part, Maori TV has struggled to cut through with mainstream audiences and had little impact on its key task – getting more people speaking Te Reo.

RNZ has little Māori expertise but a highly credible news infrastructure. RNZ has land that might be useful for Māori interests. Clearly, there is a lot of politics involved. There are have cultural sensitivities over the independence of Māori TV. Funding was secured after a fierce and heroic legal battle. Leaders like John Tamihere and Willie Jackson will be sure to keep independence to the fore and Labour will be careful to not overstep the mark.

Radio New Zealand has done little market research. Many of its bosses are new. It's just not clear that the new crop of management at Radio New Zealand understands why people like it and what needs protecting.

 


In recent years Māori TV has been working closely with a Radio Waatea – the Auckland urban Māori station - controlled by the Manukau Urban Maori Authority and Waipareira Trust. Until last year, Waatea was controlled by Willie Jackson who also headed the iwi radio trust and who is now the leader of Labour's Maori caucus. In March 2016, Waipareira chief executive John Tamihere was appointed to the board of Māori TV.

 

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