TVNZ Māori commissioner role could be axed

By Talisa Kupenga

Questions are being raised about TVNZ's restructure and whether it will affect the state broadcaster's Māori programming.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says the broadcaster intends to get rid of the Māori commissioner role, meaning no Māori representative at the executive level. Te Kāea understands the restructure will reduce the number of TVNZ commissioners to four and the Māori Commissioner role will be dissolved.

“If Māori do not have access to a Māori commissioner to be able to get that advice we will see much less Māori programming on the TVNZ stations,” Turei says.

TVNZ says it is looking to make structural changes across its entire business by the end of the month and reassures its Māori programming would not be aborted. It did not confirm whether the restructure would axe the Māori commissioner’s role. The move comes after cut-backs to its news operations in March and the disestablishment of the Māori and Pacific department in 2014.

Labout MP Peeni Henare says the potential culling of the role is “shocking”.
"The problem is if this happens Māori input and presence will diminish at the executive level and we think that's a huge issue."

TVNZ has been speaking with its funding partners about the restructure proposal. Māori in screen production guild Nga Aho Whakaari says it was not consulted and is calling out the broadcaster for ignoring its legal, moral and cultural obligations to Māori yet again. 

"TVNZ appear to want to continue to marginalise us out of existence," a Nga Aho Whakaari spokesperson says.

"Once again, they have failed to consult with Tāngata Whenua when making decisions that impact Māori. Perhaps it's time for the decision makers at TVNZ to re-acquaint themselves with both the Broadcasting Act and the State Owned Enterprises Act.”

Henare agrees.

"Over the past ten years, we've seen this sort of carry-on imposed by TVNZ's top tier which has resulted in a decrease in the number of Māori faces, roles and content at TVNZ. Under the current law, TVNZ is not meeting its obligations."

NZ On Air Chief Executive Jane Wrightson says under its Act the broadcaster must reflect Māori perspectives.

"When we fund this kind of content NZ On Air has learned that Māori executive involvement is crucial to support a project’s authenticity. We’re sure TVNZ knows this too.”

Te Māngai Pāho expects Māori oversight for the content it funds and a Māori door for Māori producers to bring new content. TVNZ says there will be ongoing expert editorial oversight for its Maori programming.

Henare says appropriate funding should follow any restructure.

“If TVNZ closes its door to Māori then the Māori funding that has been allocated to them should be withdrawn."

Henare will be raising the issue with the Minister responsible for TVNZ.

Restructural changes are pending feedback from TVNZ’s content team before further discussions this month. A more definite timeline will be available to its people in the coming days.