Iwi-run TV mooted under new law

By Yvonne Tahana

Labour MP casts doubt on availability of cash for Maori to make use of spare broadcasting capacity.

Jim Mather says iwi going it alone as broadcasters could end up competing with Maori Television for funding and audience. Photo / Dean Purcell
Jim Mather says iwi going it alone as broadcasters could end up competing with Maori Television for funding and audience. Photo / Dean Purcell

New iwi-run television stations could be part of the broadcasting landscape once pending legislation is passed, says the chairman of the organisation which will control Crown-allocated spectrum.

But the head of Maori Television doubts whether iwi will want to be broadcasters and Labour Party MP Shane Jones says he seriously doubts there's enough money for tribes to get involved.

The Maori Television Service Amendment Bill, which had its first reading last week, will transfer spectrum rights to Te Putahi Paoho (TPP), the Maori Television Service Electoral College, an independent body.

TPP shares governance of Maori Television with the Crown and both appoint directors and approve the broadcaster's annual statement of intent. Its website says it has a role in safeguarding television frequencies to promote and protect te reo.

Chairman Tuwhakairiora Williams said the intention was to license Maori TV for the whole of the spectrum block but MTS may not need all of the frequency.

"It could well be on the cards that any spare capacity that [for] iwi/ Maori who have serious intent with regard to television broadcasting that an accommodation could be made for that purpose as well. But that will be at the behest of Maori Television," Mr Williams said.

Asked if the channels could be used for non-reo revitalisation purposes, for example a golfing or shopping channel, Mr Williams said that too was a possibility but any revenue would be pumped back into Maori TV to support language revitalisation.

Mr Jones said Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples had been unable to secure improved funding for iwi radio or 4G rights.

He doubted Dr Sharples would have any more luck pushing for new cash for iwi stations.

"My fear is if the spectrum ... is atomised then it will feed an appetite that everyone can have their own channel like seven migratory waka. That's fine in theory but where will the putea [funds] come from?"

Maori Television chief executive Jim Mather said the costs could be too high for iwi to get into the industry. If a tribe did set up as a broadcaster he conceded it would be "potentially" cannibalistic. Both would vie for funding and audience.

What would occur with the spectrum was still being worked through, Mr Mather said.

"Maori Television is still analysing business case scenarios to identify the commercial feasibility of converting the spectrum into a television multiplex platform from which to broadcast a range of channels. Should this threshold be fulfilled, there is still the issue of any iwi wanting to commit resources to television services."

In a statement Dr Sharples did not address Mr Jones' criticisms around funding. Asked if iwi stations would receive government funding he said: "We have not done any work to investigate the provision of government funding for iwi television."

On the web
Maori Television launched a new dual-language website yesterday: www.maoritelevision.com.

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