Nanaia Mahuta, as the Minister of Māori Development, has set in motion a review of the Māori media. The review, called “Māori Media Sector Shift”, is being led by Te Puni Kokiri.
Nanaia’s move brings an opportunity to analyse the achievements and blunders over the last 30 or so years — and to come up with practical plans to see that the Māori voices in the media become much stronger, more comprehensible, more influential, and more accessible.
To help out TPK — an organisation that hasn’t previously shown much grasp of the realities of the Māori radio, television, print, or online worlds — we decided to seek out the views of those who’ve served their time in the Māori media, on what’s working and what’s not. We’ll be publishing their responses over the next few weeks.
Every day’s a fight. But it’s a good fight.
That’s how I describe my job at Te Karere to whānau and friends.
Te Karere punches out a half-hour news bulletin every weekday of the year. That’s 260-odd programmes annually.
The funding we receive from Te Māngai Pāho is $2.3 million. So each half-hour episode is made for less than $9,000. I challenge anyone to make a half decent television programme for that kind of money.
With such a modest budget, we’re a lean fighting unit. And, with that money, I marshal a presenter, three producers, seven reporters, and two online staff.
The objective of the battle is simple. Create content — mostly te reo Māori — that engages eyes and ears.
The numbers suggest we’re winning. In 2016, the average daily reach of Te Karere was a tick over 100,000 viewers. Last year, it grew to 115,000. In 2018, it increased again, to 123,000.
But this growth goes against national and global trends. People simply aren’t watching television as much as they used to. Today, people get news and information online at a time that suits them. This is the age of digital convergence and it throws up a whole new battlefront that we must deal with.
I see digital convergence as an opportunity rather than a threat. If you have millennials or teenagers in your household, then there’s a good chance that right now their heads will be buried in a device navigating a social media platform, playing an online game, or watching streamed video.
A lot of Māori are young. The average age is 23 years old. And the digital world is a space we have to go, if we want to stay relevant.
Developing an online strategy has been an important focus for Te Karere in recent years. We’ve been trying new things, such as Facebook live broadcasts of important events. Last week, we posted live pictures of the Te Arawa pōhiri to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and it went gangbusters.
Online also gives us scope to publish content that we can’t play on television because of time constraints. Again, from that same event, we posted a highlights video of the pōhiri on our Facebook page. It got 80,000 views and almost 600 shares.
Earlier this week, to commemorate Parihaka rather than Guy Fawkes’ day, Te Karere posted a story from our archives. It aired 20 years ago and was about Parihaka kaumātua visiting the graves of their wrongly imprisoned tīpuna in Dunedin. That little gem reached 50,000 and had 400 shares.
But here’s the rub. Te Karere might be winning certain battles, but I’m not sure that we’re winning the war. That war is the shared objective in Māori broadcasting to revitalise te reo Māori and affirm the Māori perspective.
We need well-trained troops, adequate supplies, and a clear and comprehensive strategy to win through. But I believe we’re lacking in these three critical areas.
There’s a noticeable drop-off in Māori studying journalism and that’s limited our capacity to deliver top quality news and current affairs. Perhaps the Māori journalism course we once had at Waiariki should be resurrected.
In my five years at Te Karere, there’s been no significant increase in our annual budget. Yet costs have increased. So, too, has our output across multiple platforms. We simply need more pūtea to foster growth and development.
Finally, we need a plan. Winds of rumour, uncertainty and fear have been buffeting the Māori news sector for the past 18 or so months. Last year, rumours were rife that Te Karere was going to get the chop. There were also stories that a number of iwi radio stations would suffer a similar fate. I didn’t take this type of scuttlebutt too seriously but I’ve seen the stress and worry it’s caused others.
I look forward to the Māori broadcasting review announced by Nanaia Mahuta, the Minister of Māori Development. It’s long overdue. I reckon a thorough review will confirm that there needs to be more training, funding, and clear policies.
In the meantime, I’ll take my lead from Tini Molyneux, the doyen of New Zealand television. In a recent interview, Tini gave this simple advice to Māori broadcasters.
Mahia te mahi, engari kia kaha te whawhai.
Work hard, but fight hard too.
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