Nearly $26 million has been tagged for spending on Maori programmes across all free-to-air channels this year but the head of the major funder says there is not enough to properly fund some types of shows, such as drama.
John Bishara, the chief executive of Te Mangai Paho, the Maori broadcasting funding agency, said that while the industry was generally doing a good job, programming such as te reo dramas remained on the wishlist.
Te Mangai Paho's statutory job is to promote language and culture and is responsible for the lion's share of Maori content spending. It paid out $20,788,116 in the first two rounds of the 2012/13 financial year, according to figures under the Official Information Act request.
Although broadcasters make the final decisions, the funding rounds are a rough guide to what will be on TVNZ, TV3, Four and Maori Television this year.
Of the 30 programmes Te Mangai Paho paid for:
40 per cent are a form of reality-based content: Cooking shows, entertainment, hunting etc.
26 per cent are documentary, news, current affairs and archival shows.
The remainder are youth programming and special broadcasts such as the national kapa haka broadcast, a science-based show, and sports chat show Code.
Asked what he thought of 40 per cent being spent on reality programmes, Mr Bishara said there was still room for creative growth in the sector, but cost was a factor.
"We're following what the mainstream is doing. We're following that because it works in the mainstream, but then we talk about drama. The biggest constraint is cost, at the moment it's very difficult for us to fund a high-class drama.
"Outrageous Fortune was about $500,000 per episode - what New Zealand on Air said was 'we can't afford it any more'.
"It's tough for the mainstream and it's even worse for us. It is a dilemma for the broadcasters. On one hand we're saying, 'look, we need to be a bit more creative and take some risks' but on the other we're saying 'hey, we haven't got much money. Work with us'."
In terms of development, Maori Television was in its juvenile phase - a recognition of the fact that it was a young broadcaster with some way to mature.
But it was a station with a strong sense of self, something that might be missing at TVNZ given its latest current affairs offering Seven Sharp, he said.
"That's where Maori Television is at the moment. They know what to do and they're going about doing it.
"I'm suggesting TVNZ are struggling a bit ... you scratch your head and you scratch your bum and they serve us some rubbish."
In the past financial year, New Zealand on Air spent $5,180,970 on eight Maori-based television projects, including two feature films which would eventually screen on television.
Jump Film and Television received $250,000 for its adaptation of Witi Ihimaera's Bulibasha novel, renamed The Patriarch, which is to be directed by Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors).
The Dark Horse, about chess player Genesis Potini, received $198,000.
NZ On Air chief executive Jane Wrightson said the role of her agency was fundamentally different to Te Mangai Paho.
NZOA's job was to provide a window into the Maori world for a wider audience and about supporting diversity on television, she said.
First two funding rounds, 2012/13:
Te Mangai Paho - $20,788,416
Kai Time on the Road $638,407
Behind the Faces - Te Matatini $150,000
Hunting Aotearoa $687,930
Fusion Feasts $488,935
Manaakitanga Masters [cooking ]$799,725
Te Karere $2.25m
Marae Investigates $1.4m
Kowhao Rau [Ngapuhi documentary series] $505,743
Whare Taonga [museum series] $405,756
Songs From the Inside $262,500
New Zealand on Air - $5,180,970
The Dark Horse $198,000
The Patriarch $250,000
Pakipumeka [documentary series] $1,250,000
[Figures for the third round of funding are not yet available]By Yvonne Tahana Email Yvonne