The iwi radio network hopes there will be a change in the way Māori media are resourced after the nationwide lockdown.
Peter-Lucas Jones appeared before MPs on Parliament's Epidemic Response Committee for its session on the state of New Zealand media, along with other industry bosses and the Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi.
Jones was the sole Māori media representative in his capacity as chair of Te Whakaruruhau o Ngā Reo Irirangi Māori, the iwi radio network.
The network represents the 21 iwi radio stations around the motu.
He is also chief executive of Te Hiku radio in the Far North and deputy chair of Māori Television.
Jones told MPs the network's stations were now, more than ever, integral to getting the information to hard to reach communities - especially Māori communities who had a distrust of mainstream media.
"Iwi radio is very much an essential service. In times of crisis like this our people are very much connected with the communities that they belong to."
Jones also used it as an opportunity to highlight the underfunding and under-resourcing of iwi radio stations.
An existing Te Māngai Paho innovation fund was fast tracked and redirected for stations to receive $30,000 to help them throughout the lockdown period.
Jones said although that money was welcome, it could present challenges down the track.
National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett thanked the iwi radio network for the work they were doing, especially for isolated communities. She asked whether he thought the approximately 250 jobs at radio stations across the country were secure.
Jones said all the stations were run "off the smell of an oily rag".
"We get $500,000 for an iwi radio station that runs 24 hours a day. There is a lot of volunteer work and you get what you pay for.
"We need to rethink topping up the Te Māngai Paho innovation fund - that $30,000 that each station has received has been given out but there is an increased responsibility throughout this time. This, of course will have an impact on iwi radio innovation in the future."
Labour MP Kiri Allan asked Jones if he was confident Māori media had a sufficient seat at the table to ensure their role was secure in the changing media landscape.
The will was there, Jones said, but the important consideration was comparing how the Māori media world was resourced, compared with mainstream media.
"Those are two different worlds, we are connected and in terms of the public broadcasting environment we sit out over here but at times like this it's really important that we do sit together and moving forward I am hoping that we will see a change in the way Māori media world is resourced," he said.
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