A decision to move Maori news show Te Karere half an hour closer to prime time has not impressed Maori critics, who want the show back in its original pre-6pm time slot.
TVNZ's head of Television, Jeff Latch, told the Maori affairs select committee yesterday TVNZ had listened to stakeholders who wanted the first screening of Te Karere moved from 3.40pm to a more accessible time. The show will be screened at 4.10pm starting in July - the second time it has been shifted in just a few months.
"We're keen to further grow Te Karere's audience and we're hopeful that by moving it to 4.10pm as the lead-in slot to the 4.30pm news bulletin that it will become more popular," Mr Latch said.
But while the channel won praise from the show's Government funders, others said the new time was still out of reach for most Maori.
TVNZ reviewed Te Karere's weekday time slot at the prompting of funding agency Te Mangai Paho, which pays TVNZ $5.4 million to make three Maori programmes including Te Karere.
Yesterday Te Mangai Paho chief executive John Bishara said TVNZ should be given credit for reviewing the issue and moving Te Karere closer to prime time.
Maori politicians criticised the move, saying most people would still not be able to watch the show.
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said the "terrible" times put the show out of reach for most Maori.
As well as the 3.40pm slot, the 15-minute show is screened with English subtitles after midnight and at 5.45am, and at 6.10pm every night.
"TVNZ knows we want it in prime time and they are only prepared to give us [a time] half an hour closer. That's pretty disgusting," said Dr Sharples.
"The more we talk to TVNZ the more it becomes clear that ratings and the dollar determine what is played.
"I asked them, if they're as committed as they say they are to Maori programming, why don't they spend some of their own money on it'?"
Te Karere's first news editor, broadcaster and publisher Derek Fox, said the show needed to be in prime time if it was going to be seen.
"People like me can never see it at 4.10pm. There must be hundreds of thousands of Maori who cannot be home at that time.
"It doesn't need to clash with the six o'clock news, but it needs to be on when the majority of people can see it."
Mr Fox and Dr Sharples said the best time for Te Karere would be its original slot just before the 6pm news, when it was screened between 1983 and the early 1990s.
TVNZ has ruled out returning Te Karere to that time, saying it would cost millions of dollars in lost revenue.
The Te Karere row is not the first time the channel has been under fire over its Maori content.
TVNZ chief Rick Ellis was blasted by MPs this time last year after he named Shortland Street and Police Ten-7 as examples of what the state broadcaster was doing to meet its charter obligations to Maori.
In March, Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen said it was "somewhat shameful" the state broadcaster "relegated" programmes such as Te Karere to early in the afternoons and suggesting taxpayers were not getting enough for their charter dollars.
In total the channel receives $15 million for programmes that otherwise wouldn't be produced in a commercial market.
Te Karere, which is entirely in Maori, has been on New Zealand's screens since 1983.
Since the early 1990s TVNZ has been slowly edging it away from prime time, bumping it first from its pre-6pm slot to the earlier time of 5.20pm, then to 4.40pm, then 4.20pm, before moving it to its current 3.40pm slot in September last year.