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Marae Investigates No More

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By Myles Thomas

 

TVNZ yesterday announced the closure of their Māori and Pacific programmes department. That means they’ve chosen to stop making Fresh, Tagata Pasifika, Waka Huia and Marae, and will let independent producers get their hands on these lucrative contracts.

This is the end of an era. For more than 28 years the Māori and Pacific programmes department has survived – often needing to fight its corner against TVNZ management. More so recently as ten years of Māori Television has caused many to question the duplication of programmes and resources. They don’t see the benefits of having many voices reporting current affairs, the value of competition to raise standards and the need for rural audiences to access such content on a mainstream channel (even if it screens at an insulting timeslot on a Sunday morning).

So why has TVNZ done this? They say it’s part of a move away from in-house production. But they still make Sunday programme and recently brought Q&A back in-house. And the Māori/PI programmes were big money earners for TVNZ – fully funded by NZ on Air and Te Māngai Pāho, TVNZ got paid for use of their production facilities and paid nothing for the content that filled their advert-free Sunday morning timeslot. It was a win-win for our nakedly commercial state broadcaster.

Perhaps the real reason is that they are readying TVNZ for sale. In the last few years the government has steadily stripped away the last veils of public service broadcasting – the Charter, TVNZ 6, TVNZ 7, the TVNZ archive and now the Māori and Pacific department.

TVNZ profits keep rising, often at the expense of internal budgets. Apparently Good Morning had saved a wodge of precious budget for a Queenstown special later this year – only for it to be taken away by management. Probably it went towards TVNZ’s recent profit of $25m but Good Morning is a lesser programme as a result. Yet again the viewers were short-changed by government policy.

What’s truly concerning is that the Maori and Pacific Island programmes are no longer secure. Like the TVNZ 7 shows that politicians promised would miraculously continue, these programmes now stay at the whim of commercial vicissitudes. It’s not overly cynical to say that this is the beginning of the end for Māori and Pacific programmes on our national broadcaster.

 

Myles Thomas – CEO of Coalition for Better Broadcasting

 

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