12 Dec 2021

Māori Radio Episode Four - The Shift

From Te Ahi Kaa , 6:08 pm on 12 December 2021

From the establishment of Māori radio to the technological changes in media, what is the future of Māori broadcasting?

Drawing on her own experience, RNZ producer Justine Murray puts this question to veterans and millennials of Māori radio.

Kohine Parata of Radio Ngāti Pōrou

Kohine Parata of Radio Ngāti Pōrou Photo: Josie McClutchie

*The interviews featured in this series convey the personal views and experiences of each individual.

As part of Aotearoa on Air, Te Aorewa Rolleston talked to young people who are relatively new to Māori broadcasting.

Riria Dalton-Reedy - the Programme Director and Drive Show host at Radio Ngāti Pōrou in Ruatorea - is a millennial who has just started her career.

“Our mahi has the power to affect or involve the whole whanau or the whole iwi… A tikanga Māori approach [is] we approach things with a certain sensitivity in the fact that we are involving more than not just one person. We are not just going in there to get the story get the information and get out of there, we are telling the story for the whanau,” she says.

Riria Dalton-Reedy of Radio Ngāti Pōrou

Riria Dalton-Reedy of Radio Ngāti Pōrou Photo: Josie McClutchie

For Jak Pickering, his commercial radio work as a content producer became a bit stagnant after a few years so he headed home to Christchurch to work at Tahu FM.

“For me, I found working in the big station’s was the stepping stone to go back to iwi radio because I like gained all these skills working in commercial radio… and [I wanted to] help transfer these skills into iwi radio stations as well.”

When asked about the future of Māori radio, most of the kaimahi interviewed for this series agree that the 'information age' has created a new way of engaging with listeners and has brought a re-think about catering to online and on-air audiences.

Takiri Butler has witnessed that progression. She began her career in 2003 at the time as a drive time host on Moana AM.

The hardest part of the job was the language skills, she says.

“I couldn’t speak Māori and I think the first hour or two [on the show] had to be in Māori and so oh my goodness, the nerves… I was just coming out of my teenage years when I was coming into radio, back in those days people had to listen to the radio to know what new music was…these days it’s been a complete 180. Now I ask the kids 'hey what songs are cool?'”

Aubz Hughes at Moana Radio with manager Takiri Butler, he has left Māori radio after 30 years to try something new.

Aubz Hughes at Moana Radio with manager Takiri Butler, he has left Māori radio after 30 years to try something new. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Takiri is now the manager of Moana Radio (formerly Moana AM). She's well aware of the added pressure of finding ways to produce content and repurpose audio for different platforms.

“The media shift... what they’re doing is pushing more things to be online, which is fair enough, that’s where a lot of people consume their content online. I don’t think there are any iwi radio stations in the country that don't agree with that. The thing is, just fund us to do it.”

Aubrey Hughes began his radio career at Radio Ngāti Pōrou in his hometown of Ruatorea.

All up, he has worked for thirty years as a broadcaster at Radio Ngāti Pōrou, Tahu FM and more recently Moana Radio.

Aubrey says the online shift was always inevitable and on-air announcers had to adjust.

In 2016 he attended the Tahu FM reunion and recalls a conversation with a former colleague Hayden Hare.

“We were having this discussion about how your online presence is equally if not more important than your broadcast presence, so there’s definitely a lot more of a shift in that direction,” he says.

Interaction usually entailed a listener participating in on-air competitions and banter, but as social media engagement increases, there is a noticeable shift.  

“Our listenership now aren’t used to using the phone in that way, they are used to participating online…and even phone-ins when you throw questions out and ask people’s opinion on stuff, you don’t get that immediate reaction anymore because our listeners aren’t groomed to participate in that way,  I think it's lost a bit of impact,” he says.

Aubrey decided to leave Maori radio this year to take on new challenges.

The last few years have brought about some uncertainty in Māori media.

In October 2018 the then Minister of Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta ordered a review of the sector.

After months of online discussions and engagement, an option preference was to set up a central Māori news service run by Māori Television. This idea was criticised for lacking a plurality of voices, as noted in the submissions feedback regarding Māori news;

“The dominant interpretation of the option was a resounding opposition to reducing diverse Māori news content and exposure to it, and in turn emphasised support for iwi and Māori media to provide regional news services relevant to the communities they serve.”

Willy Jackson at a press conference

Willy Jackson at a press conference Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

More work is needed in the industry, says Willy Jackson, the former Chair of Te Whakaruruhau o Nga Reo Irirangi Māori and Minister of Māori Development.

“Māori radio, going forward, has to develop on what it’s done and what it’s done has been great waka and advocate for our reo and I’m really proud of that… I always said when I was chair of Whakaruruhau we more than just the reo, we are the conduit for Māori.” 

In May this year, the minister announced a funding injection for Māori broadcasting of 42 million over the next four years with further plans afoot in 2022.

“I want them to broaden their stories and bring in more listeners and I think that’s where the future is… I’m wanting to unleash our new Māori broadcasting strategy… the strategy will confirm our iwi stations but hopefully add more putea and resourcing but with a broader strategy that will complement what we’re doing in a public media sense,” Willy says.

George Burt started working in Iwi radio from 1991 in Tauranga and since then has worked with many iwi stations around the country.

George Burt started working in Iwi radio from 1991 in Tauranga and since then has worked with many iwi stations around the country. Photo: Bay of Plenty Times

Sound and broadcast technician George Burt has worked in Māori radio for thirty years.

He's set up numerous outside broadcasts and outfitted the new premises that were integral to the capital upgrade of iwi radio in 2007.

“I suppose what I miss is there was a real excitement when iwi radio was first established and it meant that the whole community and family were there hovering around the radio station and it became an extension of the marae… To me, Tautoko FM was the epitome of Māori broadcasting in that sense.”

Over time, iwi radio has lost that ‘magic’ but continues to be a good training ground, George says.

“In some ways, iwi radio has become a bit ho-hum. We’ve had it now for thirty years or so and people have grown up with the radio station being there and the novelty of it in that sense has worn off… Now it’s a wonderful training ground. The ones I’ve seen who started as teenagers and are now sitting at that governance level dreaming the dreams for the future.” 

He mihi tēnei ki nga kaiwhakapaaho o nga reo irirangi Māori. Nāku iti nei na - Justine Murray.