John Drinnan 's Opinion

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

John Drinnan: Maori TV probe labelled too Pakeha

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Opinions split over investigation of the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust, which some see as a beat-up on Maori

Some say Mihingarangi Forbes' investigation into Te Kohanga Reo National Trust for Maori TV was too  "Pakeha-fied''. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Some say Mihingarangi Forbes' investigation into Te Kohanga Reo National Trust for Maori TV was too "Pakeha-fied''. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Some Establishment Maori are complaining that Maori Television has been too pushy with its "pakeha-fied" investigation of the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust.

That could mean trouble ahead for its current affairs show Native Affairs.

Maori appear to be split over the investigation, with some political figures blasting what they see as a beat-up on Maori.

Radio Waatea current affairs host Dale Husband, for example, says issues at the trust should have been dealt with behind closed doors. The critics' argument is that the style of the investigation is not in line with tikanga, loosely translated as the Maori way. Radio Waatea boss Willie Jackson says the split is 50:50, with supporters of the Native Affairs investigation tending to be younger. The question is whether those people have the influence to support Maori TV's independence, and match the power of its critics.

The investigation by Mihingarangi Forbes was based on the concerns of kohanga reo and Maori leaders in the Bay of Plenty, who said they were starved of cash while the trust and its commercial arm made questionable gifts, hoarded cash and refused to answer questions.

A critic of the Native Affairs investigation claims the Bay of Plenty complaints are linked to one of their number losing her role as a trust executive.

Broadcaster, Waipareira Trust chief executive and potential 2014 Labour candidate John Tamihere says the kohanga reo trust needed to make changes and be more transparent. However he also believes the Maori Television board should make its journalists do their jobs in a more Maori way.

More worrying is that some of the public critics of the Native Affairs investigation have been key power players in Maoridom.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says people who worked for the creation of Maori TV will be disappointed by the coverage, and claims it did not follow Maori tikanga and show respect.

Many of the attacks on Native Affairs have been made by guests on the Waatea Radio network, which is run by Jackson, who is a RadioLive host as well.

Jackson is also head of Te Putahi Paoho, the Maori Television Electoral College, which appoints four of the seven members of the board.

The board is working to correct the botched process of appointing a new chief executive, where staff petitioned against one of the two finalists.

De-fanging MTS

It may be that Maori journalism is different to its Pakeha counterpart, but Maori TV news and current affairs general manager Julian Wilcox spoke eloquently about Native Affairs' adherence to tikanga and Maori-ness.

He says that in a Maori context, too, what matters most is the children going to kohanga reo, not the people on the trust.

As a Pakeha journalist any - deserved - praise I offer for Native Affairs will be grist to the mill for critics such as Turia and Derek Fox, who say MTS is parroting Pakeha media in criticising Maori. But New Zealand journalism will be worse off if the Maori TV Board tries to de-fang Native Affairs. That would just mean less scrutiny of Maori leadership and business.

Moby Dick

The right wing Whale Oil Beef Hooked website is loved and loathed - depending on the observer's political views and sensibilities. But its breaking of the Len Brown story - with sleazy detail - has boosted its profile. The website has made its name with editorial content that features attacks on individuals. But how much of the sometimes harsh content from Whale Oil owner Cameron Slater and his commenters is simply branding to please the demands of its most loyal followers?

Slater sees the blog's approach as meeting demand during a change in media consumption habits. "I have instinctively known that there is a demographic that isn't catered for by traditional media," he says.

"As the world is moving away from broadcasting and broadsheets to 24/7 access to information via portable technology, the strategy has been to create awareness, then capture that audience."

He complains that other media focused on the exposure of the affair, and possible links to the John Palino mayoral campaign - led by his father, John Slater and including Bevan Chuang's former sexual partner Luigi Wewege.

"I'm unhappy in the sense that it has been a huge distraction to my original objective to have Len Brown take responsibility for a history of poor decisions and personal choices spanning several years."

It's not unusual for blogs to offer strong opinions, but Whale Oil's can be harsh. Or is the sometimes cruel tone simply branding?

Slater says: "Facts are facts. But opinions are mine, and people can agree or disagree. They can like my style or be appalled by it."

Whale Oil is not a commercial concern. "Not yet in the sense that it doesn't generate any income for me to live off, let alone run as a profitable company. But I've been working to a plan that may see Whale Oil turn into my full-time income instead of a hobby that defrays costs through advertising and the odd sponsorship deal."

There have been questions about Slater's relationship with right wing activist Simon Lusk.

But Slater says the Whale Oil blog has no commercial relationship with Lusk. "The blog, no. Simon and I have worked together over the years as projects presented themselves. Simon is one of hundreds of people I am in contact with regularly and semi-regularly that may contribute ideas or material for the blog."

Beyond the blog, traditional media are using Slater as a pundit and he is more reasoned in that forum. "I adjust the way I communicate to my audience ... I employ a different 'voice' depending on the medium and the audience.

"And as Whale Oil readers will note, I haven't used my 'Whale Oil voice' answering this interview either," says Slater.

Loving Dotcom

Advertising agency Contagion admits it took a risk using accused content pirate Kim DotCom to front an advertising campaign for the internet service provider Orcon. The campaign, launched a few weeks ago, features the German millionaire speaking in favour of uncapped data plans.

Contagion managing director Dean Taylor acknowledges that Orcon looked at whether Dotcom's role might not appeal to some people and that his profile was an inherent risk. "It was a strategic decision - Orcon is a challenger brand and have not got the money of Telecom or Vodafone. The creative vehicle was very much in line with his brand. People say he's a criminal ... so it was risky and it's true it's absolutely out there."

Taylor says Contagion researched Dotcom and found his detractors used Telecom or Vodafone. "Others saw him as a Robin Hood hero trying to help NZ. Stuffed-shirt people get upset about it that's brilliant while more progressive use more data."

Contagion made the risky ad that featured Captain Cook being roasted on a spit. All said, it did cross my mind that the Dotcom campaign won't make Contagion popular in the future with any potential client whose business is built on protecting copyright.

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan

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

John Drinnan is the media writer for the New Zealand Herald. A business journalist for twenty years, he has been editor of the specialist film and television title "Screen Finance" in London, focussing on the European TV and film industry. He has been writing about media in New Zealand since the deregulation of the television industry in the late 1980s. He is focused on the business side of the digital revolution in media.

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