Next steps for RNZ's Māori strategy

1:35 pm on 25 February 2016

OPINION: RNZ has recently come under criticism from broadcaster Willie Jackson who believes the organisation is failing to meet its obligations to Māori.

RNZ CEO Paul Thompson

Paul Thompson Photo: RNZ

Jackson has conducted what is described as an audit of RNZ content, which he says shows just 0.1 percent of output is devoted to Māori issues.

There are two things to say about this.

First, the audit is not credible and in no way accurately measures or reflects RNZ's journalism and programming about Māori issues, language and culture.

Second, while the audit methodology is questionable, and some of the criticism arising from it ill-informed, the main thrust of Jackson's argument has merit.

He and others believe RNZ should do a much better job of reporting, analysing, explaining and celebrating topics that concern and are highly relevant to Māori.

I agree. RNZ has a specific obligation under its charter to "reflect New Zealand's cultural diversity, including Māori language and culture".

We do some good things in this arena but we also know we can improve.

We have been working on a new long-term strategy that represents an increased commitment to creating high-quality Māori content, supporting te reo Māori and fostering Māori journalism.

At the core of the plan is a belief that our credible Māori journalism and journalists must be prominent within our primetime news and current affairs shows and bulletins, not side-lined into a short Māori bulletin.

We are happy to share our wider plan today but point out that it will take a number of years for these initiatives to come fully to fruition.

The strategy has five key points:

As I hope is clear from this column, RNZ is open to constructive criticism about our performance. We don't have all the answers and will listen to and work with anyone who can help us do a better job for New Zealanders.

But this debate should not be allowed to obscure the good work we already do. For example, RNZ sent five journalists, including several te reo Māori speakers, to cover Waitangi Day this year. We arrived at Waitangi before other mainstream media and were among the last media to leave. Our multimedia coverage was comprehensive and robust and was used prominently on-air and online. Our coverage reached many thousands of New Zealanders.

Those are the sound foundations we wish to build on.

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