Maori TV dumps ads for lessons in language

By Yvonne Tahana

Jim Mather, chief executive of Maori Television. Photo / Dean Purcell
Jim Mather, chief executive of Maori Television. Photo / Dean Purcell

Maori Television is increasing its broadcast hours to focus on language revitalisation and scrapping infomercials in the process - a move which has been praised by a language critic.

From Sunday, the station will broadcast tuition programmes from 10am to 3pm, replacing infomercials which brought in about $250,000a year.

Chief executive Jim Mather said the extra five hours a day would turn the broadcaster into the biggest virtual classroom in the country.

The development came after research found that 85 per cent of viewers were not fluent Maori speakers.

"We need to be programming accordingly. We want to ensure that we're constantly innovating to strengthen our Maori acquisition outcomes because at the end of the day we're primarily a language revitalisation organisation.

"We're just using television to achieve those goals."

It is also cheap, as the station owns the rights to the shows and the technical infrastructure is in place.

The station's second immersion channel, Te Reo, has also increased its broadcasting hours.

A new standard of at least 51 per cent Maori language content across the entire schedule simplifies a statutory obligation which obliges the broadcaster to "mainly" broadcast in te reo in prime time, 6pm to 10.30pm, and "substantially" outside those hours.

The standard is a reduction of past thresholds, which went up to 70 per cent depending on the time of day.

But Mr Mather said language purists once critical of the level of Maori in programming had listened to research-based arguments on why higher proportions of te reo might turn off viewers and be detrimental to revitalisation aims.

He said the response to the new standard had been largely supportive.

Language academic Dr Rangi Mataamua said that as a whole, the changes were fantastic for a channel that was often "between a rock and a hard place" in how it went about language revitalisation.

But he hoped the quality of language would be closely monitored, especially from non-native speakers.

- NZ Herald

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