Taxpayer millions on tap for Maori TV rugby cover

By Patrick Gower

Maori Television has access to millions of taxpayers' dollars to produce its Rugby World Cup coverage, over and above the $3 million authorised by Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples for its rights bid.

The broadcaster's latest accounts show its $37.5 million annual income is almost entirely made up from public funding - $18.1 million from the Government and $16.3 million from Maori broadcasting agency Te Mangai Paho.

It also has access to Te Mangai Paho's $25 million contestable fund, much of which goes to programmes that screen on the channel.

It makes a further $1.6 million from advertising.

Maori TV is the frontrunner to win the free-to-air rights for the 2011 Rugby World Cup - having outbid both TVNZ and TV3.

It is likely to have used its own money as well as the boost from Dr Sharples' ministry Te Puni Kokiri.

The station is likely to have some cash in reserve as its accounts show a $2.9 million profit for the year ended June 2008.

As it is a statutory corporation, there is no expectation for it to pay any of this back to the Government - unlike its rival TVNZ, which is required to pay a dividend.

Spokeswoman Sonya Haggie would not say what Maori TV used the extra money for, only that it was reinvested in the business.

Te Mangai Paho chief executive John Bishara told the Herald the body was briefed by Maori TV before the bid for the rights, but had not promised any funds.

"Absolutely none of our money goes towards the bid."

Mr Bishara said the contestable fund would be available to Maori TV just as it was every year.

He said Te Mangai Paho would not fund the commentary, which will be in English with up to 10 per cent in Maori.

"We tend to screw our faces up at 10 per cent. It is only one in 10 words, and that might be kia ora."

Mr Bishara said Te Mangai Paho was more likely to fund programmes with 25 per cent te reo.

- NZ Herald

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