There’s a line of thought that has reforms to the New Zealand media deserving a place at the top of the country’s to do list — along with climate change, closing the gap between rich and poor, providing homes and jobs for everyone, and taking the Treaty seriously — because of its potential to influence change in all of those areas.
The encouraging aspect of the need for media reform is that it’s proceeding. Not dramatically, but proceeding.
Not long ago we had Stuff making an apology for their longstanding pattern of unprofessional and often racist coverage of Māori news and current affairs. And they and other mainstream media organisations have been working at ways of doing better in that regard.
Then there’s Kris Faafoi, the Minister of Broadcasting and Media, promising $55 million over the next two and a half years to help plug the gaps in public interest journalism.
And Willie Jackson, the Minister for Māori Development, has a Māori media panel charged with providing advice on ways to strengthen the Māori media voice. The seven on the panel have been at work for some weeks now.
There hasn’t been any great public scrutiny of what might be the most influential changes to the underfunded, think-small approach that has helped keep the Māori voice so muted so often.
But the scope for reform in that area is enormous because there’s been a tradition of feeding crumbs to Māori broadcasting and nothing at all to print or online journalism. That miserly behaviour is in stark contrast to the value of a strong Māori media voice which has more potential than any other to shape a Treaty-embracing society out of the disparate and largely prejudiced people we have.
Today, through a series of brief interviews, Dale Husband is introducing you to the full team, starting with Ella Henry who chairs the panel. We asked all seven to respond to just three questions.
Ella Henry (chair)
When did you get into the media, Ella? And can you tell us about that?
I’ve never really been in the media. I’ve been more of an academic and a scholar assessing the industry. I think of myself as a refugee hanging around on the fringes of the media. My primary job has been as a student and then a teacher. But I first got involved with Māori media in the 1980s when I met Don Selwyn and Barry Barclay and Merata Mita. They all shaped my thinking about authentic Māori storytelling. It’s that perspective that has driven my interest and work in Māori screen production and Māori media.
What has been been your most satisfying experience in the media?
Well, I’ve done lots that have been really satisfying. For instance, I’ve produced two documentaries. One doco (for my PhD) was on successful Māori producers. And another, in 1990, was about a Māori film festival at the University of Auckland. That came about because Merata Mita had said: “You fullas have got a flash marae. We should show our movies there.” But I’ve also enjoyed another side of television like presenting Ask Your Auntie. It was lovely being in people’s homes in programmes that resonated with them.
And now let’s touch on a couple of your top concerns about the Māori media.
We all need to realise that the funding streams for the Maori media came out of Treaty settlements. They’re not there because, one day, the government decided to be generous to us. The early warriors of Māori film and television productions and Māori broadcasting took the government to task in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s — and they won those claims. So our industry is a Treaty settlement. It’s not a government handout. It is a manifestation of a partnership between Māori and the Crown. So funding definitely is an issue. And training, too. We still don’t have an industry training organisation designed for Māori media production.
My first proper job in the media was 2001. It was in radio at Ruia Mai which, at that time, had the contract to provide the news and current affairs to the iwi radio network. I was seven months pregnant and I’d just graduated from uni. Even though my reo wasn’t very strong, they gave me a job there. That was my journalism kōhanga reo — and my reo kōhanga reo in a lot of ways too. I was lucky that I was working with kaupapa Māori graduates who were incredibly patient with my dumb questions and terrible reo. I was there for three years, and then Māori Television started and I managed to squeeze in there.
It’s difficult to choose your most satisfying experiences because you love the stories that you put to air, for different reasons. One of the most significant for us at The Hui has been our Ngā Mōrehu investigation into survivors of state abuse. We put a lot of energy and aroha into that, and ended up getting a great result because they got the inquiry that we wanted. That was an important part of the healing process because many of them had never told their story before.
As for our main concerns about the Māori media, probably the most pressing is the inequity. That’s inequity in terms of what we’re delivering to Māori audiences. And whether our delivery mechanisms are fit for purpose now. Also how the industry can be audience-centric and do the things that a healthy public media should do. There’s also inequity within our industry. Things like our craftspeople, our kaimahi, our ringa raupā not getting paid what they’re worth. And we’re not doing enough to develop their unique skill sets. Also, having worked at Ruia Mai, I feel a strong connection with and appreciation for iwi radio. They are the ahi kā of Māori broadcasting and we should be doing more to support them.
I started at Radio Ngāti Porou with a show called Ngā Whaki o Te Wa. That was from nine-ish in the morning. Punctuality wasn’t my strong suit then.
The most satisfaction I’ve had from a programme has been Matchfit when we took a group of former All Blacks and got them fit again for one more game. And it had a big impact, particularly on men over 40, because here were these ex-All Blacks, opening up about their health issues and maybe starting to go to the gym again and eating better. Making a show with such a social impact was especially rewarding.
Concerns? Sometimes I think we have too big an expectation of the reo Māori sector. Yes, broadcasting is part of the reo revitalisation plan. But it’s not the only mechanism. That’s one issue. Another is that we need to take into account the importance of our media in presenting the Māori perspective in English because so many of our people don’t speak Māori.
I got into the media after I left school in the late 1980s. TV3 was starting off as the third channel and they needed to develop a workforce. I was able to do an intensive TV skills course at the Bay of Plenty Polytech. And, from that, as an intern, I joined the Marae programme run by Ernie Leonard and Whai Ngata.
Can’t say that any one of my media jobs was the most satisfying but I will say that being part of Mana Māori Media was a huge highlight because it transformed the way Māori stories were being told. They were told by us, for us, on a mainstream platform, on RNZ’s Morning Report and also in the afternoon on Checkpoint, as well as on the iwi stations.
I wouldn’t say I’m concerned about the need for change because all sectors have to evolve. And the Māori media is evolving because the legislation is 30 or 40 years old, and it isn’t fit for purpose now. But, as Māori, we can’t afford to be pillion passengers. We’ve got to be at the forefront and direct the changes ourselves.
I started right at the bottom rung. Back then I was called a “gopher”. That was as a runner in a film company.
I love what I do. I love my job. I wanted to be a producer so I worked my way towards that. One of the most amazing nights I’ve had is when Pukana won the best children’s television award in a mainstream category. We were 100 percent te reo Māori, and we’re still the only programme ever to have won a mainstream award with 100 percent Māori language. It was also the first award that Pukana had ever won. So that night was pretty special.
My top concern is our under-funding compared with what our Pākehā counterparts keep receiving — especially in view of what we’re delivering in terms of te reo and tikanga Māori. And the under-funding is happening across the board with Māori television programmes. We’re here for the love of it, but we’re getting worn out by the lack of funding. There are concerns about training as well. There are training courses but the students coming out of them aren’t ready to do the job. We need to be able to offer apprenticeships and more on-the-job training.
Peter Lucas Jones
My first job in the media was as a newsreader when Te Hiku Media started broadcasting Te Hiku TV in Kaitaia. That was a regional broadcast to the Kaitaia area from our station in Kaitaia. That was way back . . . it might have been about 2004. My dear cousin, Hone Harawira, gave me the opportunity to write and then read my news stories in front of the camera. Te Hiku was the only Māori organisation ever awarded a regional TV licence.
My most satisfying experience has been at Te Hiku leading the development of the first-ever ASR (automatic speech recognition) system in te reo Māori. It’s leading the development of a synthetic voice in te reo Māori. They are my highlights to date — and they’re a culmination of years of support and hard work. Not only by myself, but my hau kāinga, my whānau, my hapū, my iwi, my kaumātua, and the wider kāhui kaimahi of Te Reo Irirangi o Te Hiku o Te Ika.
The inequity in resourcing the Māori media is my biggest concern — that’s compared with the resourcing of the mainstream media. Being under-resourced isn’t new for us. We’ve been that way from the word go. But it’s frustrating to be so limited in what we can achieve when there are so many wonderful ideas coming from the iwi stations and Māori television, as well as Ngā Aho Whakaari and the independent Māori producers. We need more funding to breathe life into those ideas.
My first job was with Te Kawe Purongo on Ruia Mai. Wassie Shortland and Rereata Makiha had seen an interview with me by Maihi Nikora on Te Karere when I was speaking about a student protest at Massey University where I was lecturing.
Every Māori media experience is satisfying because its existence means our industry is meeting goals. But Origins was a particularly satisfying journey after our producer Megan Douglas (inspired by her father’s research) spent years trying to get it made. Presenting Te Karere and Marae has always been a privilege. And I’ve always enjoyed the environment at Radio Waatea which has dedicated people and does great work.
My concerns? Sustainability for the production companies. Funding. Training and development. Where the onus lies for reo revitalisation. Platform sovereignty. Just a few things.
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