Māori TV's Paora Maxwell faces select committee

10:47 pm on 4 May 2016

Māori Television's chief executive Paora Maxwell faced rigorous questioning from a Māori Affairs Select Committee about its operations when asking for more funding.

Fronting up with Mr Maxwell was Māori television's chair Georgina te Heuheu and Head of Finance and Administration, Darren Beatty.

Paora Maxwell

Māori Television CEO Paora Maxwell Chair Georgina te Heuheu and Darren Beatty Photo: RNZ / Laura Bootham

Urban Māori advocate John Tamihere, who was recently appointed to the Māori Television Board was also present.

The committee questioned Mr Maxwell about the loss of high profile staff, accusations of political interference and his own salary.

The committee was keen to know just what Mr Maxwell's role was when it came to political content at the station.

When asked by Green MP Marama Davidson if he thought it was appropriate to interfere with political content in any programmes, he said it only happened on very rare occasions.

"I think your question is pointed, I think you should understand that my role as chief executive is also as editor-in-chief.

"I'm actually the boss of editorial at Māori Television so it's not interference, it's me doing my job."

Mr Maxwell said the Māori Language Bill passed in Parliament last month would only have a minimal effect on the station's Te Reo Māori strategy plan.

The chief executive was challenged about the station's 2014 review and asked whether the restructure was to blame for staff losses.

"A lot of publicity around those that had high profiles that left Māori Television, but we've had also a great influx of high calibre straff. I name Maramena Roderick as one of those people, a highly respected broadcaster who came in to lead our news and current affairs deparment."

He told reporters the station had a full-time workforce of 162 and probably about 20 people had left in the last two years which was not unusal.

He said the highly qualified staff joinining also included Rick Osbourne and Pouroto Ngaropo, an exponent of te reo and tikanga.

Despite asking the government for more money Mr Maxwell told the select committee Maori Television expected to break even this year and had $8 million in reserve.

The chief executive was asked if Māori Television had enough money to operate. It was put to him that the MPs on the committee were put in a bind when the auditor-general was predicting it would operate with a deficit, but Mr Maxwell said it was not unusual to redo a deficit forecast.

As Mr Maxwell began to speak, Georgina te Heuheu made her thoughts known.

Then Darren Beatty attempted to answer the question.

Paora Maxwell: "I'm going to pass that question to our head of finance."

Georgina: "Never have enough."

Darren: "Kia ora katoa."

MP: "This is not a trick question, yes or no?"

Paora: "Yes". (Laughs)

Darren: "We could do with more."

But Mr Paora rebuffed concerns about the auditor-general's forecast of a deficit for the next couple of years.

The Māori Affairs Select Committee chair, MP Tutehounuku Korako, said the questions asked were based on the projected future deficits of $455,000 for 2015-2016 and $430,000 for 2016-17, but Mr Maxwell rejected that shortfall for the coming financial year.

"We've re-forecast... we're confident this year that that deficit is mitigated."

When asked about whether his salary had jumped $80,000 the chief executive replied he earned slightly less than the last one.

"I would love to report that my salary had increased by $80,000... that simply is not true," he said.

Mr Maxwell said the station had the aspirational goal of raising its sales revenue in the next four years to $5 million. He said it was currently sitting at $1.3 million.

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