John Drinnan

John Drinnan is the Media writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Maori TV star tipped to leave screen

Julian Wilcox might focus on administrative role at broadcaster

Julian Wilcox's supporters say his appeal goes beyond his good looks. Photo / Natalie Slade
Julian Wilcox's supporters say his appeal goes beyond his good looks. Photo / Natalie Slade

Julian Wilcox might not return as host of Maori Television's weekly current affairs show Native Affairs next year to concentrate on his administrative role at the broadcaster.

MTS has made no final decision yet, but removing the friendly face of the channel is a big call.

This year Wilcox's energetic on-air style caught the eye of commercial networks and a tentative approach was made. Wilcox says "nothing was formal" and "MTS knows what spins my wheels".

"I have told them that the language, working for an independent Maori channel, the people - it ticks a lot of my boxes."

MTS recognised his value to the public channel and appointed him head of day-to-day operations at Maori TV's news and current affairs. He answers to news and current affairs general manager Te Anga Nathan.

MTS' big dilemma must be whether putting Wilcox into management would remove an accepted and friendly face of the channel.

Wilcox is its main star, albeit with a non-commercial audience. But MTS is not into stars.

He is for many "the face of Maori TV". "People have called me that but I don't agree," Wilcox said.

"If you allow yourself to take on that sort of persona you get pulled back to earth pretty quickly around here.

"I'm of the view you can sometimes be too long on camera."

Wilcox's Supporters at MTS and in the wider TV world say his appeal goes beyond good looks. He has a lot of energy, but delivers current affairs in an old-style, respectful manner.

He avoids turning interviews with politicians into a bloodsport.

"We are not going to shirk from asking hard questions [but] there is no point in us continuously interrupting people - getting in there," Wilcox said. "People criticise us for not doing that. To me that's not fair and its not fair to their mana."

MTS has considered boosting Native Affairs but to do so would run counter to the industry trend to favour lower cost programming over relatively expensive current affairs.

"You can never say never - but things are changing in current affairs land at the moment." Wilcox says.

"I have faith in the Native Affairs format working because it is different to everything else that is out there.

"You can't rule anything [out] but at this stage it's not [a] viable option.

"There was a view when MTS started nearly nine years ago we were going to fail but we have shown that is not the case."

MTS is working on a vision for its news and current affairs offering after 2014 and the 10-year anniversary.

On the box
MTS News and current affairs
* Native Affairs screens on Monday at 8.30pm, repeated on Wednesday at 10.30pm.
* The latest episode of Native Affairs on October 22 reached 81,375 viewers.
* The latest screening of Te Kaea on October 23 reached 30,232 viewers.
* Indigenous Insights features material from other broadcasters.
* Te Tepu, Maori language current affairs show.

- NZ Herald

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