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Maori Television Service Bill First Reading Speech

5 December 2001 Speech

First Reading of the Maori Television Service Bill

Mr Speaker, I move that the Maori Television Service Bill be read a first time. At the appropriate time I intend to move that the Bill be referred to the Maori Affairs Select Committee with an instruction that the Committee present its final report on or before 28 March 2002.

Key Provisions and Purposes of the Bill
Mr Speaker, the Maori Television Service Bill establishes the Mäori Television Service. The Bill is necessary to confirm and provide certainty for the partnership approach, which the government and Maori have negotiated in relation to the governance, accountability and general operation of the Maori Television Service.

The Bill charts new territory for the promotion and protection of te reo Maori me nga tikanga Maori. It provides a means of further safeguarding Maori cultural identity, and in so doing, key aspects of our nation’s identity.

The Maori Television Service will be a vehicle to broadcast programmes in te reo Maori as well as Maori and English programmes oriented to Maori culture and Maori issues. It is also a platform for broadcasting a wide genre of programmes to all New Zealanders. It will secure programming in prime time and is designed to seek out particular audiences, such as people learning te reo Maori.

Maori Television Service
Mr Speaker, the principal function of the Maori Television Service is to promote te reo Mäori me nga tikanga Mäori through the provision of a high quality, cost effective Mäori television service, in both Mäori and English, which informs, educates and entertains, and in doing so, enriches New Zealand’s society, culture and heritage.

The Bill requires that programmes broadcast on the Maori Television Service during prime times consist mainly of programmes in te reo Mäori, and that at all other times a substantial proportion of its programmes are broadcast in te reo Mäori. The Service is also required to have regard to the needs and preferences of children participating in Maori immersion education and other persons learning te reo Maori.

The Service will be encouraged to embrace sunrise, not sunset technology. To this end the Service must broadcast so that its programmes are technically available throughout New Zealand and practicably accessible to as many people as reasonably possible. In time I expect the Service will be able to offer digital multimedia facilities.

The Maori Television Service is a Statutory Corporation. This model is a departure from conventional models for Crown or Maori entities. It involves Maori and the Crown in the governance and accountability arrangements of the Maori Television Service.

The Bill provides that a board govern the Service. The board will have seven directors, four appointed by the Maori Television Electoral College and three by the Responsible Ministers. The Chair and Deputy Chair of the Service will be jointly agreed by the Responsible Ministers and the Electoral College. The Responsible Ministers for the Service are the Ministers of Finance and Maori Affairs. The Bill sets out the duties of directors, the board as a whole, and the procedures for the conduct of the board’s affairs.

The Bill provides for the Service to be able to borrow and offer guarantees with the proviso that the written permission of the Minister of Finance and the chairperson of the Electoral College must be gained.

The accountability of the Service is managed through three key accountability documents:
 A statement of intent to be jointly agreed with the responsible Ministers and the Chair of the Electoral College;
 An output agreement to be agreed with the Responsible Ministers; and
 An annual report.

Both the statement of intent and the annual report must be presented to Parliament by the Responsible Ministers. The Service will also be subject to the Audit Act 2001, the Ombudsmen Act and the Official Information Act.

Electoral College and Kaitiaki Trust

The Bill confirms the Maori Television Electoral College which has the primary role of appointing four members to the Board of the Mäori Television Service, and, with the Responsible Ministers, confirming the Statement of Intent for the Service, receiving the Service’s Annual Report, and setting Board members’ remuneration.

The Bill also provides for a Kaitiaki Trust, which will receive the UHF management right from the Crown, to be transferred for use by the Service.

The Bill also makes provision for the termination of the Reo Maori Television Trust (Te Awhiorangi) and minor amendments to other Acts.

Context for the Bill

Mr Speaker, the idea of a Maori television service has been around for some time now and was given impetus as a consequence of the 1993 Privy Council decision in the Broadcasting Assets case. In its decision the Privy Council recognised that te reo Mäori was in a state of serious decline. The Privy Council noted, amongst other things, that the government had made a commitment, by Cabinet agreement in 1991, to set aside funding for the purpose of promoting Maori language and culture in broadcasting, part or all of which could be used to assist in the development of special purpose Maori television.

The Crown accepted that the principles of the Treaty impose a continuing obligation on the Crown to take such steps as are reasonable to assist in the preservation of the Mäori language.

Since that time a pilot television channel was established in Auckland in the mid1990s. In 1999 the Reo Maori Television Trust (Te Awhiorangi) was formed to establish a Maori television channel. The Reo Maori Television Trust model has been superceded by the approach laid out in this Bill.

The amount of te reo Maori and Maori interest programming has gradually increased on television. Without a special television service, however, these programmes remain destined to be relegated to Sunday mornings! This is simply not good enough. The Maori Television Service will broadcast programmes in prime time.

Securing prime time broadcasting for te reo Maori and Maori oriented programmes is a significant advance. It will enable a much greater reach into both Maori and non-Maori households. The increase in programme funding, announced in this year's Budget, will allow the Service an ability to target a broader audience than has been the case to date.

The Television Service will ensure that the government’s investment in programming is more effectively utilised than in the past. Advances in technology, such as digital satellite, mean that the Service will also have a good opportunity to reach out to more remote Maori communities.

Mr Speaker, New Zealand is not alone in promoting a special service for the promotion of indigenous language. This initiative follows the establishment of similar services in a range of countries where minority indigenous languages are or have been under threat. Wales, Ireland, Catelonia and the Basque Country lead the way in this regard.

It is worth remembering however, that as in these other countries, television is not a panacea to revitalising and protecting language and culture. It needs to operate in tandem with other initiatives. In New Zealand this includes te reo Maori education, immersion schooling, the training of te reo Maori teachers, broadcasting of Maori on radio, and ensuring that Television New Zealand remains obligated to broadcasting Maori programmes.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Television Service Bill is the consequence of significant consultation, negotiation and agreement between the government and a number of Mäori stakeholder organisations who include:
 the original claimants to the Broadcasting Assets case – the New Zealand Maori Council and Nga Kaiwhakapumau i te reo Maori,
 the Reo Mäori Television Trust (Te Awhiorangi),
 the Maori Television Electoral College and its representative bodies; and
 the National Maori Congress and the Maori Women’s Welfare League.

Of the people associated with these organisations and with the promotion and protection of te reo Maori generally, I would especially like to acknowledge Sir Graham Latimer and Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru who over the years have campaigned long and hard to keep the Crown accountable to its Treaty obligations to te reo Maori and Maori broadcasting generally. They, and many others have shown the foresight, determination and persistence so that te reo Maori can be revitalised and actively promoted.

I would also like to acknowledge the Reo Maori Television Trust (Te Awhiorangi) who worked alongside the Crown on the key details contained in this Bill including the ‘winding up’ of the Trust. This decision enabled officials and Maori stakeholders to move quickly to bring the Maori Television Service model forward.

Finally, I would also like to acknowledge the work of officials over the past nine months in bringing this initiative together and would like to thank my colleagues for their support.

Mr Speaker, I am excited and optimistic by the approach outlined in this Bill. It has taken us some time to get to this point today but we are here and we should not underestimate the important role the Maori Television Service will play in the development of this nation. I am, therefore, pleased to be able to deliver this Bill to you today.


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