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Harawira: Broadcasting Amendment Bill

Broadcasting Amendment Bill – third reading

Hone Harawira, Broadcasting Spokesperson

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Mr Speaker, the fact that we are considering this Broadcasting Amendment Bill at this time, is very, very auspicious for a number of reasons.

Mr Speaker, on this day, on the 11th of March 1987, the Mâori Language Act was passed, declaring Mâori to be an official language of New Zealand. The Maori Language Commission was also established and given a specific rresponsibility to promote Te Reo Mâori as a living language.

The importance of the Maori language to Maori broadcasting of course, is that it was the Court of Appeal decision obligating the Crown to protect and promote the Maori language, that led to the funding and the growth of Maori radio, and the eventual creation of Maori television.

Mr Speaker, it is also worth noting that policy and funding for Maori broadcasting was seen by the Waitangi Tribunal (and accepted by the Crown) as a way for the Crown to honour its treaty obligation to protect and promote te tino rangatiratanga o te reo Maori - not just Maori language, but 'an authentic and independent Maori voice' - (the very same ‘authentic and independent Maori voice’ that the Maori Party has so very clearly become in this very parliament).

And the fact that the Broadcasting Amendment Bill is being read for a final time this week is also worth noting, because for many Maori, this week will be notable for another ending – the announcement of Whai Ngata’s retirement as General Manager of Maori Programming, TVNZ.

So as we move to digital transmission and aim to strengthen the archiving of Maori programmes, we are also farewelling one of Maori broadcasting’s true veterans; a man:

* who has helped steer Maori broadcasting for more than thirty years;

* who won the 1980 Mobil radio award for his documentary on the 28th Maori Battalion;

* who, twenty years ago, was made deputy head of the brand new Maori Programmes Department at TVNZ, responsible in its first years for three new programmes, (Kohanga Reo, Tangata Pasifika and Waka Huia);

* and who just a year ago was awarded the Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Maori broadcasting and television.

And as we celebrate Whai’s commitment to advancing Maori broadcasting in Aotearoa, we think too of those others who have been at the vanguard of Maori broadcasting – legends like Ernie Leonard, Wiremu Kerekere, Wiremu Parker and Henare te Ua, Haare Williams, Selwyn Muru, Henare Kingi, Huirangi Waikerepuru - and many others who have made a significant contribution to the industry, including the Maori Party’s candidate for the Ikaroa Rawhiti seat, Mr Derek Tini Fox.

And in amending the Act to allow Te Mängai Päho to fund the archiving of Maori programmes, this Bill will also allow us to honour many of those people I have mentioned and a veritable host of others whose stories have been passed down through waiata, karakia, haka, whaikörero, and interviews, many of which were recorded through programmes like Te Puna Wai Korero, Koha, Ngä Take Maori, Te Mana Maori, He Rerenga Korero, and other Maori programmes which are a vital part of our sound and visual archives.

This week is also auspicious for another reason, because come this weekend, all eyes will be on Rotorua for the hosting of the annual Maori Media Awards, a ceremony initiated by Te Whakaruruhau o Ngä Reo Irirangi Maori under my chairmanship, and an opportunity to celebrate Maori excellence in the field of Maori broadcasting.

And as we recognise many of the talents within the burgeoning Maori broadcasting sector, it is timely that we recognise the importance of the digital world, and embrace the latest in broadcasting and communications technology, and the people who have the skills to maximize our opportunities from that technology.

Mind you, for all of that celebration there is still much to be done, including the age-old problem of how Maori programmes are still being shunted around to suit TVNZ’s commercial ratings.

Back in March 1987, Hone Kaa, said that TVNZ’s decision to screen the current affairs programme Ngä Take Maori, at 10pm on Sundays, “shows a lack of commitment to Maori programmes”.

Well, as we all know now, those were actually the good old days, when 10pm was almost prime time viewing compared to the midnight slot that Te Karere has been ghettoised into, and yet there is nothing in this Broadcasting Amendment Bill which addresses this marginalisation and denigration of Maori programming.

So there’s a big hole when this Bill can talk so easily about valuing the past through the archiving of Maori programmes, and preparing us for the future by funding things like ‘video-on-demand’, and managing content in other platforms, but that it can completely ignore the present demand for prime-time viewing of Maori programmes on mainstream television.

The Maori Party will support this Bill, because it does have a positive focus on archiving and digital development, but we remain critical of the fact that Labour’s Maori MPs have remained silent during the three readings of this Bill, on the issues that matter most to Maori:

Why is there no commitment to the ongoing funding of Maori broadcasting?

Why does Maori programming on TVNZ get shunted into midnight to suit commercial ratings, when Maori is an official language in this country, and TVNZ has a charter obligation to promote Maori language?

Why won’t the Crown allow Te Mangai Paho to be appointed by Crown and Maori, in the same way that the Maori Television Board is appointed?

We take this opportunity to again challenge TVNZ to lift its game:

* By accepting its obligations to honour the significance of the Maori voice; * By giving the Maori voice the recognition that comes with prime time viewing; * By enabling Maori to be full players in the growth of new technology; and * By recognising the increasingly more important role that Maori are playing in the future of our society.

And finally, we wish TVNZ’s new Maori Programme Commissioner, Kath Graham of Ngati Koroki Kahukura, all the best in her challenge to increase the number, the quality and the placement of Maori programmes on TVNZ’s channels.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party is committed to a future that includes a continued growth in Maori broadcasting and Maori programming, and Maori people who themselves are focused on increasing Maori programming in all broadcasting media, and we will be supporting this Bill on that basis.

ENDS

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