Tomorrow marks the 10th birthday of Maori Television. The appointment of a new chief executive should be a celebration.

But it is a sad occasion for some who see the contentious selection of Paora Maxwell as a blunting of Maori TV's independence.

After a nine-month fiasco, it is a worrying time for a fledging media organisation.

On paper, Maxwell has all the right qualifications to be chief executive at Maori TV.

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He headed the Maori and Pacific department at Television New Zealand.

Yet 100 staff - around two-thirds of Maori TV's total - petitioned against his appointment last August.

Former Cabinet minister and Maori TV board chairwoman Georgina te Heuheu - who declared she is a personal friend of Maxwell - was furious with staff for questioning the board. With some good reason.

It is the board - appointed by iwi and the Government - that decides a chief executive, not staff. But the board seems to have gone out of its way to avoid hearing the full story from TVNZ about issues around Maxwell's departure.

They did not seek a briefing from TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick.

Maxwell may yet prove to be a great leader.

But many staff expect the appointment will lead to a reining in of an aggressive editorial policy at Maori TV news and current affairs.

Native Affairs has embarrassed Maori establishment figures and Education Minister Hekia Parata.

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The show's fearless coverage of the Kohanga Reo National Trust has made some powerful enemies in Maoridom. Inevitably, the appointment of Maxwell - a more conservative head - will mean more changes ahead at Maori TV.