Use of te reo Māori on radio, TV 'shouldn't be threatening'

9:38 am on 10 March 2021

The Broadcasting Standards Authority's decision to no longer take complaints from people upset about the use of te reo Māori on-air and on-screen has been welcomed.

technology, electronics and audio equipment concept - close up of microphone at recording studio or radio station

Photo: 123rf

The authority said it had received 27 enquiries about the language's use since June last year - five times as many as in the same period the year before. Two of these result in formal complaints.

Broadcasting Standards Authority chief executive Glen Scanlon said they would no longer consider them because there was no basis.

"The use of te reo is not an issue for Standards, it's an issue for broadcasters to consider whether they want to use it or not and that reflects the fact that te reo is enshrined as one of New Zealand's national languages."

Auckland University of Technology communication studies lecturer and former journalist Dr Atakohu Middleton was thrilled.

"It's excellent news, it's another organisation putting a line in the sand and saying, 'we're not pandering to racism anymore'.

"The media are giving us quite a gentle exposure to the first language of our country, it shouldn't be threatening."

Veteran broadcaster Waihoroi Shortland said the decision was well-overdue.

"There's never going to come a time when somebody is not going to complain, the big difference now is they're saying 'we're not going to take any notice' ... this is just the way of the world, step up, embrace it".

The most recent complaint to the BSA was about the use of te reo Māori across TVNZ programmes, which they said was "discriminatory toward non-Māori speaking New Zealanders and divisive", because they were "purposefully excluded".

Shortland recalls the complaints made when Te Karere, TVNZ's Māori news programme, first went to air in the mid-80s.

"This was happening every night when Te Karere first went to air for two or three or four years ... and I can remember people saying, 'if I see this language on my television again I'm just going to smash it'."

He said complainers needed to get with the times, a sentiment shared by Green Party MP Marama Davidson.

"He tohu pai ... and about time because te reo Māori is an official language, it is also the indigenous language and I'm glad they are treating those complaints with the respect they deserve, which is none."

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said there needed to be even more te reo on-screen and on-air.

"We've finally got BSA admitting that it's been running discriminatory and accepting complaints that it shouldn't have been allowing to come through so the focus has to be on what are we doing to grow our reo, to grow our kōrero, to grow kōrero about our history, our tikanga, our kaupapa."

RNZ has received 12 formal complaints about te reo Māori use since July 2020, not including the many angry texts and emails presenters receive.

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