The Māori screen industry is actively monitoring discussions on the future of public broadcasting. It has been suggested that Radio New Zealand and TV One will be merged to become a public broadcaster. There is also talk that Māori Television may be included in the merger.
Māori screen organisation Ngā Aho Whakaari says any discussion and decisions must include Māori as true Treaty partners.
“Māori media practitioners must have a place at the table”, says Hineani Melbourne, Ngā Aho Whakaari chair. “Māori Television was set up because Māori aspirations for our language and culture were not met, and are still not met, by mainstream media, including Radio NZ and TVNZ.
“Māori Television was hard fought for. If there are discussions about including Māori Television in a public media service, we must have a real say.
“In any discussion about reorganisation, Māori must be equal partners at the Board table. Not just one token Māori on the Board, but real and equal representation.”
Melbourne says that champions of the Māori language like Huirangi Waikerepuru led the Waitangi Tribunal claim for te reo Māori and for Māori broadcasting, taking it all the way to the Privy Council.
“They mortgaged their homes to fund the struggle for recognition of the Māori language and for the right of Māori to manage their own broadcasting.”
In 2017 the incoming government promised Radio NZ $38m a year. In 2018 the government was promoting Radio NZ to run a public service channel with $15m allocated to RNZ and NZ On Air.
Melbourne says funds were ear-marked for under-served audiences such as Māori, Pasifika and children, but Māori were not included in any of the discussions. In fact, she says, Māori were excluded.
She says while the government appears to be getting closer to deciding on whether to merge TVNZ and RNZ and turn TV One into a commercial-free channel, there are major questions hanging over the future of Māori Television.