2 Jul 2017

Māori TV accused of buckling to pressure

9:44 pm on 2 July 2017

Māori television has buckled to pressure from a vocal few by dropping the Australian comedy Jonah from Tonga, a Tongan community leader in Auckland says.

Jonah From Tonga

Jonah From Tonga Photo: Supplied

The broadcaster yesterday announced it was pulling the show after RNZ News revealed concerns among its board members about the show, written and starring Australian comedian Chris Lilley.

Lilley plays Jonah Takalua, a 14-year-old Australian boy of Tongan descent sent back to Tonga because of his behaviour.

However, the head of the Tonga Advisory Council, Melino Maka, said the show had merit as it touched on Tongan issues.

"It may not be to everybody's taste but...when I talk to some of the young Tongans, they think it's funny. They can relate...

"I'm just really disappointed in Māori TV."

In a statement, board chair Georgina te Heuheu said Māori Television had a responsibility to present all cultures with a degree of respect and aroha.

A replacement show Te Taumata Kapahaka would take its place, she said.

Some Pacific Island politicians had earlier expressed their concern over the screening of the show, with Minister for Pacific Peoples Alfred Ngaro saying it perpetuated negative stereotypes of Pacific people.

Labour's Carmel Sepuloni agreed, saying it reinforced crude stereotypes of the Tongan community.