Maori TV faces more battles
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.