Broadcasters' row goes to standards authority.

They do things differently in Maori broadcasting.

But why did a row involving Mihingarangi Forbes and Annabelle Lee challenging Willie Jackson wind up before a Crown entity? In my opinion, the answer is linked to rifts in Maoridom.

This month the Broadcasting Standards Authority ruled against Jackson's July 6 interview on Radio Waatea. It found Jackson's discussion with a Maori TV executive treated Forbes and Lee unfairly, and in part inaccurately.

The decision came as a surprise to Jackson, whose freewheeling style features widely in Maori broadcasting.


In this case, Jackson believes Radio Waatea did nothing wrong. He complains that Forbes and Lee should not have gone to a "Pakeha forum" on matters of "tikanga". He believes there should have been a Maori on the hearing - if not his relative, BSA member Te Raumawhitu Kupenga, then someone else. (Kupenga declared a conflict and stood down from the decision).

There are always challenges for media covering media. But add in family and iwi affiliations, and the potential for conflicts of interest becomes 10 times worse.

Jackson plays key roles in Maoridom, while also maintaining a high profile as a journalist on radio and TV.

He is chairman of the National Urban Maori Authority. Radio Waatea is owned by two members of the authority, the Manukau Urban Maori Authority and Te Whanau a Waipareira Charitable Trust. Jackson also has his own show, called Paakiwaha, which was the subject of the complaint.

As well, he is chairman of the organisation that represents 27 iwi stations. And he is chairman of the Maori Television electoral college, which has a role in picking half the board of Maori TV.

So Jackson is central to the debate about Maori broadcasting.

I asked him whether, given his connections, he should have conducted the offending interview.

He said he was a broadcaster and was always open about his roles.

Adding to his on-air roles, he also appears as a commentator on the TV1 show Marae. And on February 22 he started a new current affairs show with left-wing blogger Martyn Bradbury.

To his credit, Jackson has never been shy about having an opinion.

Meanwhile, Lee will soon be starting a new Sunday morning show, The Hui, which will play on TV3 opposite Marae on TV1.

Lee - who is the daughter of high profile political figures Sandra Lee and Mike Lee - is the partner of Jim Mather, Maori TV's former chief executive.

Jackson agreed there were challenges in separating his different roles, but said he worked hard to avoid conflicts.

Certainly, Maori have been open about their disagreements.

Native Affairs

Mihi Forbes was the star of the Maori TV current affairs show Native Affairs.

The show was controversial, due largely to the widespread attacks it prompted from the Maori establishment.

And the channel's news operation was seen as central to the internal dissent over the appointment of a new chief executive, Paora Maxwell.

Native Affairs' biggest campaign - peaking in 2014 and led by Forbes and Lee - was its investigation into allegations against the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust. (A subsequent Serious Fraud Office inquiry found there was no fraud in mis-spending by the trust's commercial arm.)

The Native Affairs campaign drew brickbats from some Maori leaders, who said it was "un-Maori" and believed it was disrespectful towards elders on the trust.

But Forbes and Lee stood firm and gained kudos from non-Maori media for their dogged approach.

The show has since lost its controversial edge and several staff have left the channel.

In June last year, Forbes left Maori TV to be Maori reporter for RNZ National.

She was hired by RNZ head of content Carol Hirschfeld, formerly head of production at Maori TV.

Coincidentally, Hirschfeld and Jackson have clashed recently. They had a terse exchange on Radio NZ's Mediawatch programme.

Jackson had criticised RNZ for the level of Maori content and presenters.

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