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Willie Jackson: End of an era

Ernie Leonard TVNZ

The decision by TVNZ to outsource their Maori and Pacific Island programming has brought an end to the Maori and Pacific departments.

The Maori department’s first boss in 1980 was the well-known television personality Ernie Leonard. Ernie was a larger than life personality, who had become a celebrity in mainstream television, which was very rare for Maori in the 80s (actually, if we’re being honest, it’s not much different today).

However, Ernie taking the top job in the Maori department was a proud moment for him and for Maoridom in general. He died at far too early an age, but I’m sure he would be turning in his grave after hearing the sad news that his beloved department was being shut down.

The department represented a partnership between pakeha and Maori. A Maori perspective in terms of New Zealand has been guaranteed because of its very existence, that guarantee is no longer there after the decision to outsource the programmes.

Although TVNZ have still given their commitment to screening Maori programmes and maintaining the current shows Marae and Waka Huia, there is no security that has been accorded to the workers on those shows. Independent companies can now pitch for the funding for these television shows and bring in their own work force. The consequences of the TVNZ decision will mean inevitably there will be a number of redundancies. While some of the workers might survive because their experience would be invaluable to any companies who win the rights to present the television shows, these workers will be starting as new employees and will have lost all their rights and conditions that they previously held with TVNZ.

Of course it could all work out okay in the short term and independent producers could come up with new and innovative ways and ideas in how they present Maori programmes, but there are a number of dangers ahead. For example any company, whether they be Maori, Pakeha or Chinese could be invited to produce these shows, these companies might not have any experience, history or commitment in terms of presenting Maori programmes but are just entrepreneurs who are clever at winning contracts and sourcing money. Their whole ethos and being is not about any commitment to Maori programmes or Maori culture, but about commercial imperatives and this is the type of company and person who TVNZ is now inviting into the mix. That, I believe, is one of the big problems with what TVNZ is trying to do, add the fact that there will now no longer be a training ground or institution for young and aspiring Maori broadcasters to be part of. And you would have to accept that the special culture that was an integral part of TVNZ is now well and truly over.

Willie Jackson and Alison Mau - weekdays from 12pm on RadioLIVE

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