Maori broadcasters are forming closer ties, boosting the prospect of a Maori news unit that would service multiple media, sources say.

The moves coincide with the new Maori language agency Te Matawai and its attempts to lift the slow uptake of te reo.

All Maori media are coming to grips with that lack of progress, but Maori TV gets most flak because it was created specifically to boost te reo.

The moves towards closer ties follow the 21 iwi radio stations recently endorsing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Maori TV and the Auckland urban Maori station, Radio Waatea.

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Waatea is a news and current affairs station controlled by the Manukau Urban Maori Authority, formerly led by Willie Jackson, and the Waipareira Trust in Auckland, whose chief executive is John Tamihere.

Maori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta was unavailable to discuss developments.

Under the MOU between Maori TV and Waatea, the parties agreed to co-operate in contributing to the protection and promotion of te reo.

Sources say the creation of a combined news unit is some way off, but there is a common view that it could make good sense.

Maori broadcasting has been fractured, and the Government has been funding competing services for an important but niche audience.

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Maori broadcasting has been fractured, and the Government has been funding competing services for an important but niche audience.

The role of state media — RNZ and TVNZ — with obligations to reflect the Maori language has also become complicated.

For years, RNZ largely ignored its Maori obligations. But after being publicly pilloried by Jackson, RNZ has been trying to develop more te reo content — provoking complaints from some members of its traditionally older audience.

Sceptics have suggested RNZ is chasing more money from funding agency Te Mangai Paho, but RNZ says the extra attention is a genuine attempt to meet its obligations.

RNZ chairman Richard Griffin says it already has a MOU to work with Maori radio, including Waatea.

Jackson has been a dominant player in Maori broadcasting, but stood down from those roles when Labour won a clean sweep of the Maori seats in the election.

Tamihere, a former Labour minister, was appointed to the board of Maori TV in April last year. He is said to have been the prime mover behind closer ties between Maori media institutions.

Jackson, Tamihere and the recently appointed Waatea chief executive Bernie O'Donnell did not return calls. Maori TV declined requests to interview Keith Ikin, recently appointed as chief executive, replacing Paora Maxwell who stepped down in August.

Read more: Radio te reo

Stayin' alive

MediaWorks is planning a New Year makeover for RadioLive. The big question is whether it continues with its existing strategy, where it has aimed at, but not undermined, its arch-rival Newstalk ZB, owned by Herald publisher NZME.

When RadioLive launched in 2004, MediaWorks aimed at a talk audience that was not listening to Newstalk ZB. That makes sense, says advertising consultant Martin Gillman, but talk audiences tend to be older and more conservative.

RadioLive, however, has aimed at a younger, more liberal group, who are being drawn towards online fare.

The AM Show, simulcast on Three and RadioLive, has made inroads against TVNZ's Breakfast.

But, I would argue The AM Show has never worked as well on radio as it has on TV.

Last year, Newstalk ZB's breakfast show with Mike Hosking suffered a brief ratings slide, but it has reasserted its market dominance. Now there are plans for Kate Hawkesby to take over from Rachel Smalley on Newstalk ZB's Early Edition programme.

Nationally, in last week's fourth GfK survey for 2017, Newstalk ZB had a 10.5 per cent share, compared to 3.5 per cent for RadioLive.

Another factor has been the growth of RNZ's audience, especially in the Auckland market where it traditionally scored poorly. Under its deal with GfK, RNZ cannot compare its ratings with those of commercial stations, so it is impossible to know what effect — if any — RNZ's growth has had on Newstalk ZB or RadioLive.

This year, MediaWorks chairman Jack Matthews expressed frustration about RadioLive. "We just have to find what it takes to get in front of more people," he said. "It's a management discussion, not the board, but I think Michael [chief executive Michael Anderson] would say the same."