Outsourcing will create yet more distance.

Outsourcing of Maori programming will make Television New Zealand less engaged in the Maori world - but that might suit the broadcaster.

The Maori Party's "Te Matawai" policy will take funding from the Crown and place it under the control of a new iwi-based authority which will be linked to Maori TV and the Maori Language Commission.

The change may allow the state broadcaster to distance itself from the inevitable politics of such a scheme.

Independent TV producers will have welcomed yesterday's announcement that TVNZ is to close its Maori unit and outsource production of shows such as Marae Investigates and Waka Huia, putting them on the same level as other TVNZ-commissioned shows.

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The daily news show Te Karere will stay in-house, produced by the One News operation.

There is an argument that a Maori production unit was archaic. A new system commissioning indies to make shows will allow a wider range of voices and ideas - and make room for people who are not tied to a state TV bureaucracy.

Independent producers who win commissions from TVNZ qualifying them for 100 per cent subsidies will still be obliged to use TVNZ facilities, so the broadcaster will clip the ticket and access taxpayer funding.

But taking the Maori component out of state TV seems dangerous to me. It seems as though TVNZ is a cultural organisation that does not want to have a relationship with Maori. It is a far cry from 2003, when TVNZ appointed a Maori kaihautu, or cultural leader, to lead Maori issues.

My sources say there is precious little engagement between Maori and Pakeha at TVNZ, and that is more about legacy rather than any fault of individuals.

All media have a poor reputation for reflecting Maori and other non-Pakeha groups among their staff. But a state broadcaster has a special responsibility in this area.

Maori are few and far between on Radio NZ, though the appointment of Carol Hirschfeld as the new head of content may change that.

TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards said the outsourcing was part of a strategy to not be involved in production, outside news and current affairs. But in my opinion the new policy is to distance itself from a restructuring of Maori broadcasting. Outsourcing will mean TVNZ does not have to deal directly with a planned new Maori broadcasting body controlled by iwi, giving them a bigger role in deciding on the funding of shows.

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Te Matawai was the brainchild of former Minister and Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples - and many deride it as Sharples' attempt to create a legacy. Some wondered whether his replacement, Te Ururoa Flavell, would back the idea, given that it uses a lot of the party's leverage with the Government without delivering any cash in hand. But the TVNZ policy - and events at Maori TV - suggest Te Matawai is going ahead and that it will be implemented sooner rather than later.

Under the new arrangement, TVNZ will still broadcast the 100 per cent funded projects such as Marae, but negotiations over funding will be held between the new organisation and the independent producer, and TVNZ will not be involved.

There are some in Maoridom who believe Maori programming should be focused on Maori TV. But the counter argument is that this risks ghettoising Maori programming.

Programmes on TVNZ usually get a much bigger audience than they do on Maori TV.

The effect of the changes will be most pronounced at Maori TV, which has already started moving to become less "Pakeha-fied". The disestablishment of jobs for Julian Wilcox and Hirschfeld is part of that shift, though there are personal differences as well.

Some see the change as a retrograde step, leading to the loss of talented broadcasters, and as a case of Te Matawai and iwi authorities stifling dissent.

Others see the change as entrenching Maori control of their own broadcasting and focusing on their own issues, rather than attempting to entice a Pakeha urban audience.

RNZ may join ratings survey

Radio New Zealand is claiming its best-ever ratings share in Auckland based on its own survey, and is talking to commercial radio bosses about a new combined survey.

According to Radio NZ, its National service was No 1 for "cume" - the cumulative audience - and share nationwide. The other occasion when RNZ National was No 1 on both measures at the same time was in 2010-11, in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes.

According to RNZ, it had its best-ever results in urban Auckland - an area where it has traditionally lagged and where it is directing more resources.

Quarterly updates of the annual survey result show RNZ National was No 1 in Auckland and the breakfast show Morning Report was also No 1 in Auckland.

The timing is important. Auckland breakfast broadcasting may become even more competitive next year when Paul Henry doubles up on a new TV3 show and takes over RadioLive's breakfast slot.

Radio NZ chief executive Paul Thompson will be able to claim the results, compiled by Nielsen, as showing the success of moves to energise RNZ - especially RNZ National, and more especially Morning Report over the past six months, since Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson replaced Geoff Robinson and Simon Mercep.

The problem is that the Nielsen survey uses different methodology to the commercial radio surveys done by TNS.

In talk radio the TNS survey crowns NZME.'s Newstalk ZB and morning host Mike Hosking as far and away the most popular host.

"They compare apples with oranges," said Bill Francis, chief executive of the Radio Broadcasters Association, which represents commercial radio, dominated by the duopoly of NZME. and MediaWorks.

RNZ surveys people aged over 15, while commercial radio surveys those over 10.

The two distinct surveys have enabled the state broadcaster and commercial operators to each claim victory.

According to advertising consultant Martin Gillman, "the radio industry has become an expert at everybody winning in the surveys".

Radio NZ National had a significant audience in Auckland and in Wellington, he said. Commercial radio also assesses how many listeners RNZ has, but does not release the results to the public or advertisers.

Francis said that talks about a survey which would compare the two groups had been held with RNZ and the issue would be passed on to a meeting of the RBA board at the end of next month.

He said there had been similar initiatives before, but RNZ had pulled back.

What is not clear is which market research company would collate a combined survey.

RNZ has less need than commercial radio for such information. For the commercial sector, ratings are about attracting advertising revenue. For RNZ they are more useful as an indication of what is working for the audience. But as one advertiser pointed out, such information might be more useful if RNZ seeks partial advertising support.