Many Maori Television staff will start the Christmas break with an extra $500 in their pockets at a cost of $78,000 to the taxpayer-funded station.
The station's chief executive, Jim Mather, said the decision to award 156 staff the extra payment was "a statement of appreciation" and made smart business sense despite figures released to the Herald showing viewership ratings are poor.
"What it does is it grows a strong sense of commitment to our organisation and our achievement and for many people it's a sense that their efforts are being valued," he said.
"In a business sense what that does is it has a lot more pragmatic benefits that far outweigh the investment that has been made."
Mr Mather said the station had paid a standard Christmas bonus of $500 in the past five years, although last year about 150 staff were paid $1000 because of the extra work around the Rugby World Cup.
He said staff not receiving the end-of-year sweetener included those in the $100,000-plus pay bracket and the executive team, whose performance bonuses are paid in July.
Asked if he thought the payments were a good look during austere times, Mr Mather said: "It's about doing the right thing.
"Our staff are paid below market rates, we have a low staff turnover and we have a very stable, committed workforce ... I have a view that our staff should also have the opportunity to have their efforts recognised.
"I can see how it creates some negative perceptions but I think it is a smart business decision for Maori Television to be making and I do think our people do deserve its efforts to be recognised."
Maori TV has about 204,000 viewers a day on average, or 0.6 per cent of those aged 5 years and over watching television between 3pm and midnight.
TV One has a 25.2 per cent audience share and TV3 has 14.9 per cent.
Maori Television receives $16.6 million in direct state funding and $16.1 million from Te Mangai Paho.
It also receives about $20 million via the Te Mangai Paho contestable fund, which is paid directly to independent producers.
The station reported a surplus of $775,000 for the last financial year to June 30.
In the money
$78k pot for Maori TV staff bonuses
$500 bonus to majority of staff
$775k funding surplus for station last year