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John Drinnan is a Herald business writer and media commentator

John Drinnan: Bishara gets Govt nod for Maori TV

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Georgina te Heuheu, former National cabinet minister and current chairwoman of the board of Maori TV. File photo / NZ Herald
Georgina te Heuheu, former National cabinet minister and current chairwoman of the board of Maori TV. File photo / NZ Herald

Government politicians are pressing for funding bureaucrat John Bishara to be the no-controversy chief executive for Maori TV after ructions last year, broadcasting sources say.

Upheavals last September led to scrapping of the employment process for a new CEO after the board identified two finalists for the CEO role.

One was the former TVNZ Maori unit boss Paora Maxwell and the other education bureaucrat Richard Jefferies.

But ructions erupted with staff signing a petition against Maxwell being appointed and a Maori Television board member Ian Taylor resigning over the process for selecting finalists.

That was six months ago and Maori TV and while the selection process has been revived Maori TV yet to interview applicants for the revived CEO appointment

Maori broadcasting sources say Te Mangai Paho chief executive John Bishara - a well known player in Maori Television - is now seen as a frontrunner to become chief executive of MTS.

Bishara confirmed he had applied but said the selection process had a way to go and he had not been interviewed.

Officially the decision is down to the board led by Georgina Te Heu Heu, a former National Cabinet minister.

The board is made up of her and Government appointees and appointees from Te Putahi Paoho, the Maori Electoral College.

Maori TV has a tension between those who believe it should promote Maori language at all costs and those who see it as having a more commercial role.

But sources say Government see Bishara as a safe pair of hands in an election year and encouraged him to apply, believing would reduce the prospects for the ructions that occurred in 2013.

Te Heuheu declared a friendship with Maxwell.

Maxwell is a former general manager of the TVNZ Maori and Pacific unit whose selection was opposed in a petition from Maori TV staff. Asked whether he was still seeking the CEO post, Maxwell declined to comment.

The other finalist - Maori education bureaucrat Richard Jefferies - is understood to still be a contender, a source said,

Maori TV Head of production Carol Hirschfeld is understood to be among applicants. Bishara is chairman of the Tuwharetoa Trust where Te Heuheu is deputy chairman.

Maori TV shareholding minister Bill English had not responded at print time over the long delay finding a chief executive.

Maori Television did not return calls.

Chief financial officer Alan Withington has been filling the gap while a permanent CEO is found.

- NZ Herald

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