Maori TV faces more bat­tles

Auckland City Harbour News - - News -

I can un­der­stand if Maori Tele­vi­sion chief ex­ec­u­tive offi Jim Mather is feel­ing pleased with him­self and his staff at the Maori Tele­vi­sion Ser­vice when he looks back over the chan­nel’s first five years of broad­cast­ing.

He’s done a great job of tidy­ing up the messy sit­u­a­tion he in­her­ited when Cana­dian John Davey, Derek Fox and then Ani Waaka all bailed out of the po­si­tion for a va­ri­ety of strange and colour­ful rea­sons.

So Jim de­serves con­grat­u­la­tions for his sal­vage work and for round­ing up a team that’s been com­pe­tent enough to put an end to any se­ri­ous talk, as there was from the Nats, about pulling the plug on the whole op­er­a­tion.

But I’ve still got a few reser­va­tions about the chan­nel – partly be­cause we still don’t know ex­actly what sort of fol­low­ing it has.

We don’t know how many peo­ple are watch­ing, what they’re watch­ing or how long they’re watch­ing.

When I tack­led Jim on my TV show Eye To Eye about that sub­ject last week­end, he came up with an over­all monthly fig­ure of 1.5 mil­lion view­ers.

But he didn’t spell out what that means, so we don’t have any idea of how many are tuning in, for ex­am­ple, to news pro­gramme Te Kaea, sports show Code or cur­rent af­fairs show Na­tive Af­fairs.

We don’t know if the view­ers are at­tracted by the chan­nel’s pro­grammes in Maori, its Maori pro­grammes in English, the bas­ket­ball – or the non-Maori fea­tures it buys in from over­seas.

And I’m left with the un­easy feel­ing that Jim’s fig­ure of 1.5 mil­lion in­cludes a whole lot of peo­ple who’ve flicked briefly on to the chan­nel but maybe shouldn’t re­ally be classed as MTS view­ers. There’s an­other worry. As we know, many of those who bat­tled for the chan­nel were do­ing so be­cause they saw it as a vi­tal move in sav­ing the Maori lan­guage.

Some of them ar­gued that it should be broad­cast­ing noth­ing but te reo Maori.

I wasn’t one of those. I’m all for ma­jor ef­forts, es­pe­cially in the school sys­tem, for all our kids to learn the lan­guage. And it makes sense for all Ki­wis to have easy ac­cess to reo Maori on ra­dio and tele­vi­sion.

But now, five years on, we need to see some anal­y­sis of the im­pact of the in­vest­ment by the Maori Tele­vi­sion Ser­vice in Maori lan­guage pro­grammes.

And much more detailed dis­cus­sion about what sort of pro­grammes are help­ing sal­vage the reo and what might be a waste of time and money.

Jim Mather has won one im­por­tant bat­tle. But he has oth­ers ahead of him.

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