John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

Maori TV chiefs on Arctic expedition

CEO of Maori Television, Jim Mather. Photo / NZPA
CEO of Maori Television, Jim Mather. Photo / NZPA

Maori Television has sent five executives to an indigenous broadcasters' conference in the far north of Norway - and has declined to say how much taxpayer money was spent on the trip.

Times are tough for public broadcasting with the imminent closure of TVNZ7 and non-profit channel Stratos forced off the air because they lack public funding.

But Maori TV executives who flew to the Arctic circle will this week be staying in hotels in Kautokeino in the Arctic highlands to attend the 2012 conference of the World Indigenous Television Broadcasters Network.

The conference began on March 24 and runs until March 30. Conference organisers at Norwegian broadcaster NRK says Sami Radio is paying for two of the Maori Television people.

The main industry for the Sami is reindeer herding and husbandry, but Maori TV says it's important it is represented.

Maori TV said it was keeping costs down and declined to spell out the cost to taxpayers flying staff to the isolated Sami community with a population of 2925.

They travelled economy class, said spokeswoman Diane Berghan.

The Maori TV entourage is led by chief executive Jim Mather and includes general manager production Carol Hirschfeld and general manager programming Haunui Royal. Maori TV said it was not obliged to name the two other executives.

Other indigenous broadcasters attending the conference include BBC Scotland, S4C Wales, TG4 Ireland, NITV Australia and the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

"Developing strong relationships with indigenous broadcasters are highly important for exchanging essential knowledge, growing efficiencies and accumulating and sharing content, assisting us to remain a world-class indigenous broadcaster," said Ms Berghan.

"Given the range of cultural backgrounds involved, developing strong relationships with indigenous broadcasters is best done face to face."

Maori TV and Mr Mather were key players to form the indigenous broadcasters' body and hosted the inaugural event in New Zealand in 2008.

The WITBN conference was held each second year and in 2010 was held in Taiwan, though it is not clear how many Maori TV staff made that trip.

International conferences are common enough.

Maori TV was in the headlines this year over paying around 150 staff a $1000 bonus as a thank you for the channel's performance broadcasting Rugby World Cup games - using $150,000 of taxpayers' money.

The TV station has been lobbying to take over some of the general interest public broadcasting functions when TVNZ7 closes down in July.

Mr Mather earned $240,000 last year, according to a Herald report yesterday on salaries of chief executives of public organisations.

* Correction: A report on a Maori TV trip to Norway erroneously referred to general manager production Carol Hirschfeld as "programming boss'' and general manager programming Haunui Royal as "Maori language programmer''. Also, the story said the channel had declined to reveal costs but Maori TV says it had been too soon to determine the costs but now confirms $24,500 was budgeted.

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