26 Mar 2015

MPs grill Māori TV's main man

11:44 am on 26 March 2015

Māori Television is considering changing its policy after it came under fire for censoring a haka that was critical of the channel.

Maori TV chief executive Paora Maxwell

Maori TV chief executive Paora Maxwell Photo: RNZ / Gareth Thomas

Chief executive Paora Maxwell has told MPs he was motivated to remove the video to protect the mana of the broadcaster and the mana of the staff who work there.

A haka highlight performed at Te Matatini by the Tainui group, Te Iti Kahurangi, challenged the way the station covered Maori issues.

Māori Television pulled the item, but later published the footage online after pressure on social media and after channel leaders asked staff for their views.

Paora Maxwell has fronted up to the Maori Affairs Select Committee, where the Green Party MP, Metiria Turei, asked:

"Do you have a policy and did your decision meet that policy? If it did, are you considering changing that policy?"

Mr Maxwell replied: "The short answer to that question is yes. We're guided by all sorts of considerations, including the consideration of reputational damage".

He also revealed Māori Television has not talked to the haka performers, Te Iti Kahurangi, since Te Matatini.

No new pūtea

Māori Television told MPs it is about to overspend its budget, after having no increase in funding for seven years.

According to its latest annual report, the channel received $34.873 million in annual Crown funding.

It recorded a surplus of $486,000.

New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone queried how the broadcaster could press for more money if it has underspent two years on the trot.

"It's pretty hard to ask for a increase in base funding if you're underspending your present levels", he said.

But the chief executive, Paora Maxwell, said the surplus was modest compared to its income.

"The size [of the surplus] is a very small proportion of the total budget. It's always difficult to bring it in right on zero."

"What we're projecting this year actually is a loss ... of 190,000. And the early indications are that in the 2015-2016 year we're projecting a loss of 600,000," said Mr Maxwell.

Mr Maxwell made it clear the station needed more money.

"We would be supportive of any measure or government move to increase our base funding", he said.

On the move?

Politicians also asked the former TVNZ executive about where the channel would be based in the future.

Its headquarters is currently in the Auckland suburb of Newmarket, which is home to high-end shops and restaurants.

But the broadcaster's building lease there comes up for renewal in 2017.

Paora Maxwell said they had not 'emphatically' ruled out staying where they were.

But he confirmed the channel was looking at other areas, including south and west Auckland.

Mr Maxwell said sites in the central North Island were also being checked - Rotorua and Hamilton - due to the large Maori communities and because they were very close to Auckland.

He said no decision had been reached on a 'resting place' for Māori Television.