Maori TV is the front-runner to win the free-to-air rights from the International Rugby Board for the 2011 Cup after getting a multi-million dollar taxpayer-funded boost from Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Maori Development.

Maori TV chief executive Jim Mather yesterday defended its audience reach, issuing a revised figure of 90 per cent on the ordinary analogue network. This has raised concerns that towns like Russell, Paihia, Kaikohe, Wellsford, Warkworth, Wanaka and Queenstown could miss out.

But Mr Mather said Maori TV's reach became 100 per cent on the satellite network, which would require households in the black spots to get a Freeview box or basic Sky subscription.

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