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Monthly Archives: December 2014

Māori broadcasting & the year of living dangerously

Māori broadcasting & the year of living dangerously

This week there will be yet another one of those end-of year functions. Perhaps you are familiar with such things. Perhaps you have been press-ganged into a few yourself. Or perhaps you have managed (like me) to use your children as an excuse to avoid anything remotely Christmassy/Secret Santa-ish. Well. spare a thought for one of those functions that will be held this week; the break-up, in more than one way, of the Māori and Pacific programmes department at TVNZ.  There will be, no doubt, much kōrero, sadness and reflectiveness as the current staff look back over many decades of service that this department has given in the pursuit of New Zealanders understanding ourselves just a little bit better. Ernie Leonard, Whai Ngata, Mihingarangi Forbes, Stephen Stehlin, Ngaire Fuata, Mātai Smith, Hineani Melbourne, Quinton Hita, Osone Okesene, oh crikey. Need I go on? You get the picture. A whole lot of talent pooled in order to create some damn fine TV over three decades, or near enough to.  As you might be aware TVNZ  announced in October that it will divest itself of most Māori and Pacific programming. In fact, TVNZ announced last week its preferred production companies to take on producing the other shows. but rest assured, TVNZ will still charge those lucky independent programme makers premium rates for the use of TVNZ facilities to make the same programmes. So…effectively this  “cornucopia of Māori production” will be no more (except for Te Karere). Whither now TVNZ’s legislative function that sets out, in s12(3) of the TVNZ Act 2003 that TVNZ  “must provide high-quality content that— […] reflects Māori perspectives” I wonder. I certainly don’t doubt the talents and skills that reside in our young, independent production houses. I wish them all the best for this new, and no doubt, exciting path. But make no mistake, the indefinable something, that collective enterprise that was just big enough to make a change to NZ broadcasting culture, that  trained and welded generations of Māori and Pasifika broadcasters, journalists, technical staff together to create something bigger than the sum of those individuals, will vanish. That job of cultural transformation must not be left to independent Māori and Pasifika vehicles. There must be space for difference within the machinery of the mainstream. More on this later. But for this moment…spare a thought on Thursday night for that sad celebration. Actually 2014 is a red-letter year for Māori broadcasting, it seems to me. For one thing, it was the 10th anniversary of another important source of Māori images and voices: the Māori Television Service, MTS, or better known just as Māori Television. Actually, the most annoying thing Judith Collins ever said, in my view, happened way back in May 2014 at the time of the 10th birthday celebrations.  Now, I get that some people will be somewhat ideologically ill-disposed to MTS. Fair enough. Each to their ideological own. But this reported comment, made with the trademark Collins curled lip,  got my goat and just about killed it:

Mrs Collins said most of the time when she tuned in the station was broadcasting “reruns of things that were running 30 years ago”. “I would like Maori TV to be considered one of our icons but at the moment it is not,” Mrs Collins said. “It’s not dealing with the big issues. And when it does deal with them it is often seen not to be evenly handed in its treatment of them.”

The absolute barefaced untruth of the first line of this comment was easily demonstrated by the most casual perusal of the channel’s programming for that month. So it was quite obvious she had either never actually tuned in to Māori Television more than, you know, that ONE time [at band camp], or she had happened one day upon a repeat screening of Koha or Tangata Whenua on Heartland and thought she was really was lost among the natives. This insulting dismissal of all that MTS has tried to achieve over ten years felt like a punch in the gut to me, and I don’t even work there! Nor do I think the programming is perfect either, but the accusation she makes is one of which that station is simply not guilty. And as far as I’m concerned, her egregious first comment negates what might have been marginally debatable points in the other lines. People who just make things up simply don’t get to be a critic that anyone listens to. But her comment did raise food for thought at the time, and still does. What is it that we expect an organisation like MTS to achieve? And, likewise, what do (or did…) we expect of our more ‘mainstream’ broadcasters such as TVNZ, RNZ and others in regards to promoting Māori content, training new broadcasters and, oh I don’t know, upholding or creating the authentic vision of how we think Māori ought to be portrayed? Let’s just say that there have been some pretty big events this year that are setting the scene for Māori media in this country. I don’t really know how the cards are going to fall, but there is a lot of shuffling going on at the moment. in addition to the gutting of Māori and Pacific programming at TVNZ we also have:

  • MTS in the middle of a restructure, and ‘scoping’ a possible move,  with a couple of its high profile figures (and a few others not so high profile) recently jumping ship; Julian Wilcox and Carol Hirschfeld.
  • Native Affairs (on Māori Television) is still weathering some ongoing ructions about the nature of the programme, and  debate about the future of investigative journalism at MTS. A particular series of examples arose in the election campaign pursued by Hone Harawira and the MANA Movement to highlight what they claimed to be threats  against NA and Te Kāea by MTS and its Board. This series of claims has been running for a few months now, culminating a few weeks ago in Harawira’s accusations about political interference in the content of Native Affairs by Paora Maxwell (MTS Chief Executive) reportedly rescinding an invitation for Hone Harawira to attend the final show of the year (although we only really have Hone’s account to go by). In addition, there are the ongoing consequences from Native Affairs’ investigation into the commercial arm of the Kohanga Reo National Trust,  Te Pataka Ohanga. For all the many admirers of Native Affairs investigative journalism in the Pākehā world (see here, and here for example), opinion is more divided within Māoridom (see the second half of this Te Putatara post  critiquing Native Affairs’ objectivity in that saga, and We Take Manhatten’s account of some of those critiques).
  • The current progress of the Māori Language Bill through Parliament and the forthcoming implementation of Te Mātāwai, a new governance agency that will provide direction on the future directions for te reo Māori, taking control of Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Maori (the Maori Language Commission) and Te Mangai Paho (the Maori Broadcasting Fund Agency). This new entity will also absorb Te Putahi Paoho, the electoral college for Maori Television;
  • In May this year Māori radio stations received a boost in funding of $12 million, for the next four yearthat has set up a challenge, and perhaps a point of debate and even tension for those stations about how best to use that funding and develop the existing stations and yet still keep a door open for new radio stations to develop.
  • and then there has been the launch, this year of the first modern Māori mainstream newspaperMāngai Nui in collaboration with the Rotorua Daily Post.

Crikey. That’s quite a lot to be going on with. There is always risk in expecting any one organisation to bear the weight of all Māori and Pākehā expectations of what Māori media should be.  One of our problems is that we are not always sure what it is we think Māori broadcasting ought to achieve, so, when big changes are signaled we don’t quite know how to read them. Or at least, I haven’t been sure. Take MTS, for example. What will be the result of the current changes at MTS? It may, actually, be better and more focused on doing what it was set up to do, provide a way and means of protecting, preserving and promoting the Māori language and tikanga Māori. Actually, however much we might want MTS to reflect the diversity and dynamism of modern (Māori) New Zealand, however much we might want it to be THE public broadcaster, it wasn’t set up to do that. The fact that it does those things, and with aplomb, is a testament to its staff and its ingenuity. But make no mistake…it has a legislative job to do. s3 of the Māori Television Services Act sets out the recognition that Crown and Māori together have an obligation under the Treaty of Waitangi to preserve, protect and promote te reo Māori. S8 of the Act sets out the principal function of the Act, which is:

…to promote te reo me ngā tikanga Māori through the provision of a high quality, cost effective Māori television service, in both Māori and English, that informs, educates, and entertains a broad viewing audience, and in doing so, enriches New Zealand’s society, culture and heritage.

In 2009 the review of the Act found that there was an inconsistency between the implementation of ss3 and 8. The reviewers said:

In effect the Act is successful in providing for the promotion of te reo Māori, but is less clear in providing for its preservation and protection.

But legislation be blowed, in on sense. Programme-makers, broadcasters, journalists, writers, presenters..all these people bring themselves into the public sphere in some way and change our cultural landscape even when we don’t know they are doing it. Whatever our Treaty-based, legislative, cultural or emotional expectations of our Māori media in general, and broadcasters in particular, this country owes a massive debt to Māori media in all its forms. This has been the case ever since the beginnings of Māori newspapers in the 1840s. Māori media, with all their faults, and variance and ideologies and truth-constructions,  have helped to foster a sense of connectedness and fellow-feeling between disparate members of Māori communities. They  have reflected Māori back to ourselves, even as we can argue endlessly over what distortions might be writ large in those images, words and sounds. They have given true glimpses of Māori life to those who don’t share that life. And Māori media have, for over 160 years, offered a portal into Māori thinking that is rarely offered within what we now offhandedly refer to as MSM, or mainstream media. Perhaps I had better be clear on what I mean by Māori media. I am not referring only to Māori run organisations independent of larger ‘mainstream entities’. Sometimes Māori media has extended its reach into Māoridom more by way of the Trojan Hoiho technique. Some of the Māori newspapers, for example, were government organs, but letters to the editor, and some editorial material did a pretty fine job of reflecting Māoridom, notwithstanding the intent that such organs be instruments of Crown propaganda. When The NZBC appointed Māori broadcasters in the 1930s and 40s, they were to provide an extraordinary legacy within Māori media (and broadcasting history). As written by one of the towering figures of Māori broadcasting, Henare Te Ua, some years ago:

Who were, these pioneers? Professor James Shelley, Director of early broadcasting, during the 1930s appointed four air-staff Māori, one each in the four main centres. In Auckland, Ngāti Whātua’s Lou Paul a skilled singer and musician, in Wellington, Kingi Tahiwi of Ngāti Raukawa’s musically talented Tahiwi whānau – he died over North Africa while serving with the Royal Air Force, Ngai Tahu’s Te Ari Pitama was appointed in Christchurch, and Wharekauri (Chatham Islands’) Airini Grennel in Dunedin. While not appointed as “Māori broadcasters”, they were bi-culturally adept broadcasters who were Māori, each possessing style and flair and te reo which they used on-air. My opinion is that their personal, outgoing charismas quietly opened their Pākeha colleagues’ insights into te ao Māori – the Māori world – and were at the genesis of Māori broadcasting

I think the second paragraph is very apt. It is a lonely thing sometimes to be ‘the Māori voice’ within a mainstream organisation. But those lonely voices are absolutely vital, in any form of broadcasting or media, and, I would venture, in any organisation with public relevance, actually. The problem with being the lonely voice is that it can more easily, and with relative impunity, be silenced. So. Here’s to both the lonely Māori and Pasifika voices in within mainstream media, wherever they are found, and those voices of other Māori and Pasifika who are able to paddle their own media waka. Kia mau tonu koutou.

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Ruatara’s Mission: 200 years since the first Christian service in Aotearoa through Māori eyes

Ruatara’s Mission: 200 years since the first Christian service in Aotearoa through Māori eyes

A thoughtful and nuanced account of the two of the pre-eminent figures who, between them, introduced Christianity to Aotearoa. Kia ora.

First We Take Manhattan

Article originally written for the Salvation Army’s War CryIssue 6606 Christmas 2014.

On 12 April 1799, the Society for Missions to Africa and the East (later renamed the Church Missionary Society) was founded at a meeting of the Eclectic Society, supported by members of the Clapham Sect, including Henry Thornton, Thomas Babington and William Wilberforce.

Samuel Marsden was a member of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and chaplain in New South Wales, Australia. In that position, he frequently encountered Māori from New Zealand. Marsden lobbied for a Christian mission to New Zealand, and in 1809, missionaries William Hall, John King and Thomas Kendall were appointed to establish this mission.

On Marsden’s return from a visit to England in 1809 on the convict transport Ann, he met Ruatara, who was ill and neglected, vomiting blood because of the severity of his beatings on previous ships. Marsden cared for Ruatara…

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The curious case of Korotangi Paki and inherited privilege in modern New Zealand.

The curious case of Korotangi Paki and inherited privilege in modern New Zealand.

The news today that Korotangi Paki has now had a conviction entered against his name for Excess Breath Alcohol reminded me of a conversation I had with my mother a few months ago when the news broke that he had, at that time, escaped conviction.  “What!” She yelped. “How did he get off? That’s not bloody fair! And anyway, the Kingitanga’s not even bloody REAL!” My Mum’s Pākehā. I’m pretty certain my Dad (nō Te Rarawa), were he still alive, would have had pretty much the same response. That Korotangi Paki’s story has had legs for a large chunk of this year is in part because of a powerful idea in the mainstream New Zealand public imagination. People with privilege should not be treated more gently than the rest of us plebs, especially when such privilege is based on birth and inheritance. Every so often some issue such as this swells in the public consciousness and has people claiming loudly and broadly about equality for all. On a good day I can see that kind of response as some kind of evidence that the reputed strong egalitarian streak in the New Zealand psyche is alive and well in our heads if not in real life, and some degree of disdain for inherited privilege is pretty healthy.

Privilege is an interesting topic as it has so many manifestations. And of course, the slightly notable thing in Paki’s case is that the charge has always been that he was was a Māori supposedly claiming inherited privilege.  The general tenor of this kind of criticism on a popular, dedicated Facebook page is easy to spot:

This is an outrage! […] This shows the Kingitanga as an excuse for featherbedding and protection of tribal privilege. The rest of us would have to take our lumps!…

Should’ve been given a GOOD OLD WORKINGMANS BOOT UP HIS ROYAL ARSE…

Unfair justice. No matter who you are or where you come from, If you do the crime, do the time!!! Is it fair to say, if we got caught for theft, burglary & drink driving we can ask the Maori king to get the case DISCHARGED without conviction too? FAIR JUSTICE for all…just saying..

Of course, this criticism is also interspersed with even more comments bemoaning so-called racial (as opposed to inherited) privilege. and, curiously, many, many comments scorning King Tūheitia for being a truck driver with that fact being held up as evidence that the Kīngitanga isn’t a real monarchy anyway. Hmm. Well, be that as it may… Certainly, in Māori thinking, often lineage does count for something.  This fact is often perceived to be in direct tension with New Zealand’s long-lived love affair with the idea (if not the reality) of classlessness/equality. Focus on lineage is often easily conflated with the presumption of inherited privilege.

Lineage is extraordinarily important in Māori thinking, but not so much because it comes with attendant wealth, but because whakapapa (genealogy) is the pre-eminent organising principle of Māori life, even among many Māori who profess no Māori cultural life otherwise. Māori commonly seek connection with each other on a familial basis for any number of purposes; to decide on the speaking order on the paepae, perhaps, to help a therapist and client create a good therapeutic relationship, to make slyly apt jokes hidden in the lyrics of a particularly lascivious haka, to smoothe the way in creating a relationship between newly introduced strangers. Whakapapa, as the basis of collective action, is now commonly referred to as a teaching tool and necessary focus in some rehabilitation frameworks.  Whakapapa can help determine those who might best serve on a hapū negotiating team, given the connections that could be created with other hapū to get the most combined traction. And obviously whakapapa can determine ownership of land. Like the gossamer threads of the spiderweb, whakapapa, is everywhere, connecting pretty much everybody and everything. This is no misty spiritual abstraction; whakapapa is a bloody useful tool.

Undoubtedly, whakapapa can, sometimes, bring with it wealth and influence, and opportunities not open to others, which is why the privilege presumed to apply to Korotangi Paki, as the second son of King Tūheitia, has received such a public airing. This idea of privilege based on whakapapa, although relatively less exercised among Māori, is probably quite familiar to most New Zealanders who recognise, and deeply distrust, lineage-derived privilege. But how deep does this distrust really run, I wonder? And can we see it in our own mirrors, I wonder?

I wrote two wills, this year. One for an older female relative on the Pākehā side of my whānau , one for one of my older whanaunga in my Dad’s family. In doing up these documents I got a pretty clear idea of how inherited privilege can work even just within my own family. Although my Pākehā relative has been a beneficiary (DPB and Super) for more than 40 years she inherited some money from her stepmother when she died, and when she received a similar amount from her own mother who passed away, that was enough to pay the remaining mortgage on her home, about 12 years ago. So all she has in her house, but she owns that, and absolutely nothing else. When she passes away her adult children will inherit some part of that legacy which will then bolster whatever they have managed to accrue for themselves over their adult lives. A smaller share of her legacy will also be divided between the grandkids to be held on trust until they are old enough preferably for use in tertiary study or for partial house deposits. In turn, the grandkids themselves will also inherit their parents’ shares of that legacy providing for some level of economic stability for decades to come, that, most likely will only increase in value and carry on down the generations to come. That’s inherited privilege, isn’t it?

My whanaunga’s will on my father’s side of the whānau represents an entirely different situation. There is a large amount of land, and a house on its section. Neither is owned outright by my whanaunga. Instead the land is collectively held in different areas around the North Island with literally hundreds and hundreds of other people. The house and section are in a whānau trust under the Māori Land Act. My whanaunga worked all his life until retirement, but there is no inherited wealth, other than his actual lineage and whakapapa connections that already belong to his adult children anyway. Of course there is the wealth of the homestead itself and the landscaping; a wealth of memories and connections that will remain. So much for our dual legal system with ‘special laws’ bestowing privilege on that whānau. There is no increased capital value that will enhance the lives of his children or grandchildren.

I want to be clear that I don’t think I am talking here about ‘white privilege’ per se. While inherited privilege will often accrue to white people, in my unsophisticated view, white privilege refers to a degree of racial and cultural privilege experienced by, well, white people.  I am speaking here specifically of inherited privilege. Often the two will coincide, but not inevitably. And yes, of course there will be a significant number of Māori families who will have exactly the same kind of individual wealth as I described above. Provided, of course, that they have managed to accumulate individual wealth outside of the Māori land system. It is probably also entirely possible now to talk of an inheritable collective privilege, as iwi and hapū develop and grow their asset bases and engage in post-settlement reconstruction. So obviously I don’t consider Māori to be excluded from the notion of inherited privilege. However I consider it far more likely that Pākehā families will benefit more directly and more materially from inherited privilege.

For one thing, I’m pretty sure I see inherited privilege most days I go to work at my university, and I’m the beneficiary of it myself, from the Pākeha side of my whakapapa. I wonder how much outrage generated against Korotangi Paki was created by people who themselves owed something significant to their own inherited privilege. How many of those people end up being somewhat insulated against the possibility of being claimed by the criminal justice system because of their birth privilege, I wonder? Chuck Collins in a post last year identified certain kinds of students whose inheritance determines, at least to some degree, the nature of their futures. This quote is a lengthy one, but worth including (bearing in mind the US context). Collins imagines a scene that could happen in any uni cafe around NZ: two 21-year-old students sit down in a cafe to study for an upcoming test:

Behind the counter, a barista whips up their double-shot lattes. In the back kitchen, another young adult washes the dishes and empties the trash. One of the college students, Miranda, will graduate without any student-loan debt and will have completed three summers of unpaid internships at businesses that will advance her career path. Her parents stand ready to subsidize her lodging with a security deposit and co-signed apartment lease and will give her a no-interest loan to buy a car. They also have a network of family and professional contacts that can help her. Ten years later, Miranda will have a high-paying job, be engaged to another professional, and will buy a home in a neighborhood with other college-educated professionals, a property that will steadily appreciate over time because of its location.

The other collegiate, Marcus, will graduate with more than $55,000 in [student loan], a maxed-out credit card, and an extensive résumé of part-time food-service jobs that he has taken to pay for school, both during summers and while in college, reducing the hours he can study. Though he will obtain a degree, he will graduate with almost no work experience in his field of study, and begin working two part-time jobs to pay back his student loans and to afford rent in a shared apartment. Ten years later, Marcus will still be working in low-paying jobs and renting an apartment. He will feel occupationally stuck and frustrated in his attempts to network in the area of his degree. He will take on additional debt—to deal with various health and financial problems—and watch his hope of buying a home slip away, in large part because of a credit history damaged during his early twenties.

Tony, the barista, has the benefit of not taking on mega-debt from college. He will eventually enroll in some classes at a local public university. But his income and employment opportunities will be constrained by not having a degree. He will make several attempts to learn a building trade and start his own business, eventually landing a job with a steady but low income. The good news for Tony is that his parents, while not college educated or wealthy, are stable middle-class with modest retirement pensions and a debt-free house, acquired by Tony’s grandfather with a low-interest [..] mortgage. They are able to provide a bedroom to their son. That home will prove to be a significant factor in Tony’s future economic stability, as he will eventually inherit it.

Cordelia, working in the kitchen, has even less opportunity than Tony for mobility and advancement. Neither of her parents went to college nor have significant assets, as they rent their housing. Though she was academically in the top of her urban high-school class, she did not consider applying to a selective college. The costs seemed daunting, and she didn’t know anyone who went away to college. There were no adults or guidance professionals to help her explore other options, including financial aid available at private colleges, some of which would have paid her full tuition and expenses to attend. Instead, she takes courses at the local community college where she sees many familiar faces. Cordelia will struggle with health issues, as lack of adequate health care and insurance means she will delay treatment of several problems. Over time, she will have a steady and low-wage job, but she will also begin to take more responsibility for supporting members of her family who are less fortunate.

So while many of us might be pretty happy about Korotangi Paki’s shiny new conviction (or not) I think it’s worth a moment of reflection to ask what role, if any, some manifestation of inherited privilege might play in our own lives. Just a thought. Not a judgment.

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