Funding for Te Māngai Pāho has remained static for years
Funding for Te Māngai Pāho has remained static for years

ĀteaJune 24, 2024

Te Māngai Pāho ‘facing a fiscal cliff’

Funding for Te Māngai Pāho has remained static for years
Funding for Te Māngai Pāho has remained static for years

With a growing demand for reo Māori content, is it time for an increase for the funding agency?

A who’s who of Māori radio and TV gathered together last Thursday to celebrate 30 years of Te Māngai Pāho, but the future of the Māori broadcasting funding agency remains uncertain. Despite being one of few government agencies to not receive funding cuts in this year’s budget – which chief executive Larry Parr described as “very lucky” – he said Te Māngai Pāho would be “facing a $16 million fiscal cliff” after 2026.

The issue of funding for the agency was a main focus of the kōrero, particularly how static it has been over recent years. While the $16m Parr refers to is time-sensitive funding, baseline government funding for Te Māngai Pāho has only increased by $7m, or 12%, from $59m in 2017 to $66m in 2024. Over the same period of time, the purchasing power of money has decreased by 21%.

Scotty Morrison presenting Te Karere.
Flagship daily Māori language news programme Te Karere, which began in 1983, is wholly funded by Te Māngai Pāho (Image: YouTube)

Te Māngai Pāho previously received funding allocated for Whakaata Māori, but the government-owned station now receives that money directly. While it still goes towards funding Māori content, control of the pūtea sits with the station itself.

Last year, Te Māngai Pāho approved about 30% of all applications it received. Parr said up to 60% more applications likely could have received funding if the agency had the pūtea. While he acknowledged not all applications are ready to be funded, Parr said it was becoming harder to choose what should be funded.

“We are oversubscribed,” Parr told The Spinoff.

Need for data

At the function, some sector representatives said they were eager to see the agency lobby the government for more funding. While Parr admitted there was currently no set strategy on this, he said the first step was increasing the agency’s ability to show its return on investment through measurable evidence. Data collection focused on reo Māori outcomes, or how the content Te Māngai Pāho funds grows the number of te reo Māori speakers, would be critical moving forward. Exactly how this would be measured was yet to be determined.

The agency is government funded, which comes with government expectations. Performance for Te Māngai Pāho-funded activities are assessed through several measures, including a 5% or more increase in audiences for funded content, ensuring 100% of funding contracts support the goals of Maihi Karauna, the Crown’s strategy for Māori language revitalisation, and distributing 94% of funding to third parties for Māori content creation and promotion. Additionally, Māori language content funded by Te Māngai Pāho is required to meet a quality standard of at least 90% according to the Māori language evaluation framework.

Te Māngai Pāho has secured a deal with TVNZ to receive data relating to Te Māngai Pāho-funded content showing on TVNZ channels, and Parr was confident that moving forward, more platforms would be willing to provide information and data, as well as give market measurement firm Nielsen access to it.

Larry Parr, after his investiture as ONZM, for services to film and television, by the governor-general, Dame Patsy Reddy, on 25 September 2018.
Larry Parr, Te Māngai Pāho chief executive, after his investiture as ONZM for services to film and television by the governor-general Dame Patsy Reddy in 201 8 (Photo: Supplied)

“Currently, we have decent but mainly linear [TV] data. Our goal now is to acquire online data, which we’re working on,” said Parr.

Another focus area of Te Māngai Pāho was in helping content creators and influencers to better understand the data relating to content they shared on their channels. Both the agency and those in the sector understood the importance of data collection and interpretation but did not want the process of collecting and sharing it to be overly burdensome, said Parr. “I don’t want it to be onerous, I want it to be aspirational.”

Running a tight ship

Funding criteria and the processes used by Te Māngai Pāho were under scrutiny earlier this year, with heavyweight Māori screen production company Pango seeking a judicial review of the agency. The case was settled outside of court and Parr said Te Māngai Pāho had since made changes to its processes. Firstly, each section of a funding application will be assessed by different assessors, both internal and external. This means outlier scores are less likely to unfairly bring down the overall total an application receives.

Another change the board was keen to see was funding not being awarded to applicants who had outstanding contract deliverables, ie those who had not yet delivered projects they had previously received funding for. The agency would also be applying greater scrutiny to application budgets and turning down those applications that required further work.

“This means your applications for funding will need to be as good as they possibly can be,” Parr said.

Some sector representatives called for greater transparency around funding decisions from the agency, and longer lead times for funding rounds, particularly regarding the earlier release of requests for proposals. All funding round dates for the upcoming year are released at least 12 months prior and Parr said it was not the agency’s role to tell people what to pitch. “You should tell us what you want to do, not the other way around.”

There was an acknowledgement from Te Māngai Pāho that some may argue funding should be made available for programmes with a wider reach, meaning it should be more accessible to non-reo speakers, but Parr said that was the role of NZ On Air. Moving forward, 60% of Te Māngai Pāho funding would be allocated to content for fluent audiences and 25% for new programme ideas or producers. There was also an appetite to increase the number of new fully te reo Māori programmes for tamariki, supporting innovation in content for an important audience segment.

“We need to provide good quality kai for those already on the journey,” said Parr.

So while Te Māngai Pāho has a solid plan for the future, there are fears about how the current government will view the agency moving forward, particularly given its agenda around slashing what it deems to be unnecessary spending. As was written about Whakaata Māori, funding for any government organisation can quickly be pulled, regardless of the impacts that might have.

This is Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ On Air.

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