The Māori Television building, Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

The Bulletin: Radical restructure of Māori TV news

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Radical restructure of Māori TV’s news announced, key City Rail Link firm goes bust, and Kiwibank responds to branch closure criticism.

A sweeping restructure of Māori TV’s news service has been announced, with the loss of four major news programmes. Te reo news show Te Kāea will finish up early next year, and midday news show Rereātea and current affairs shows Kawekōrero and Native Affairs are going at the end of the year. Here’s the announcement. All Māori TV news will be consolidated into a single brand, and it has been confirmed that there will still be an evening TV news broadcast.  

It comes at a really pivotal moment for the organisation. There’s currently a major funding review of Māori media going on. Māori TV operates on about $35 million a year, of which $16 million is administered through Māori media funding agency Te Māngai Paho. But that’s money that has to be approved every year, and funding from Te Māngai Paho hasn’t gone up since 2004. There was also a turbulent couple of years recently for Māori TV under the management of now-departed Paora Maxwell, covered in this Newsroom story from 2017.

From a journalism perspective, the question will be as to whether this is rebranding and redeploying, or scaling back. Native Affairs and
Te Kāea both have strong legacies of strong news and current affairs coverage. Te Kāea itself was up for a TV award for best news coverage just last night, and Native Affairs has broken really important stories, for example this one about a child who was effectively prohibited from being part of te reo education because of a custody dispute. They’ve also been highly regarded for their in-depth coverage of issues. Having said that, quite a few excellent journalists have departed in recent years, and some argue that Māori TV’s news shows have lost bite as a result.

Watching the broadcast of Te Kāea last night, it was striking how different their news agenda was, especially compared to their TV competitors. Partly that’s for the obvious reason – they’ve got a specific mandate to cover Māori news. But there were stories like this one about different views on whether the date selected to commemorate the Māori Land wars (October 28) was appropriate. Those discussions have been taking place at a hui in Te Awamutu, and Māori TV’s news programmes have always been really good on the ground outside the main centres, where pretty much all the rest of the media is based.

One story right up the back end of Te Kāea perhaps shed light on where things are going. Māori TV has formally signed off on a deal to share content with Stuff, which has been trialled for the last year. The restructure announcement signalled that the news service from now on would be focused on getting reporters out into the field, and doing more up to the minute news. Stuff is the biggest news website in the country, and this could potentially help them broaden their coverage significantly, and give those stories from Māori TV a much bigger audience. And that could end up being a really positive development. But if more good people go during the restructure, it might not work out like that.

Finally, for more perspectives on Māori media generally, E-Tangata recently ran a fantastic series of opinion pieces from people who were well informed about the issues and organisations. One of them came from veteran broadcaster Mike Rehu, who argued that structural rationalisation of programmes in a more general sense wouldn’t necessarily mean a loss of voices. Hopefully he’s right.

An Australian firm that was going to build the underground network for Auckland’s City Rail link has gone into administration, reports Radio NZ. It happened incredibly quickly too – just a few days ago the firm RCR Tomlinson was putting up job listings to build the CRL. What this means for the CRL itself – scheduled to open in 2024 – remains up in the air.

Kiwibank has responded to criticism over branch closures, saying they’re opening more at the moment than they’re closing, reports Newshub. Two branches in Wellington and one in Nelson have been slated for closure, but they’re opening up thirteen more around the country, many in much smaller towns. However E tū Union, who represent bank workers, are warning that more branches could close in the near future, reports Stuff. And Kiwibank customers themselves in the affected areas say they’re “appalled” by the closures, reports Radio NZ.

A church in the Hawke’s Bay is looking to build a solar farm to take advantage of the region’s lovely weather, reports Stuff. St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Hastings says they’d then sell the power generated at a discount to low income families suffering from energy poverty. It’s only at the business case stage, and they’ll need about $2.5 million, but it is an interesting sign of the times.

Auckland’s Queen St could become almost entirely pedestrianised under a new long term plan being presented to council next week, reports the NZ Herald on their front page today. The quote that really jumps out in the story is from council senior exec Ludo Campbell-Reid, who says “we want to make the central city a place to go to, not a place to go through.” It’s an old idea that was floated previously, and found to be quite popular, but then didn’t really go anywhere, so it has been dusted off for another go.

The government is well behind on their police recruitment target, reports Newshub. They’ve promised to recruit 1800 new officers over three years, and have set out plans for how they’d be deployed. But a year in, the force has grown by only 329, in part because there’s a significant amount of churn in the ranks. Police minister Stuart Nash says he’s always maintained it was an “aspirational target,” which is actually fair enough – here’s him saying that more than a year ago, for example.  But the thing with targets is that you either meet them, or you don’t, and face the political consequences accordingly.

Two stories here that perfectly illustrate a current paradox in media funding: The NZ Herald is trumpeting a big increase in readership of NZME’s newspapers, in particular the daily print edition of the Herald, and the Herald on Sunday. That’s great for the journos who put good stories in the paper every day.

But on the other hand, Stuff reports that NZME doesn’t expect it will pay out a second half dividend this year to shareholders, amid a big drop in profit and a high level of debt. Share prices slumped in response, which isn’t a great sign for the company as a whole.

And finally, congratulations to all of the winners at the TV awards last night. There’s way too many to name all of them, but just quickly, here’s a shout to One News for winning the Best News Coverage award, and Jehan Casinader who won reporter of the year. Both awards are very well deserved.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Z Energy CEO Mike Bennetts writes about transitioning away from fossil fuels. Leonie Hayden visited Planet FM, an amazing radio station in Auckland and one of my favourites to turn the dial to. And is Jose Barbosa ok? He’s had a crack at shooting the hats off everyone he meets in the game Red Dead Redemption II, and, well, gaming doesn’t look that fun at all.

Is all publicity good publicity? Not if this essay from Thrillist is anything to go by. The writer, Kevin Alexander, set out across the USA to find the absolute best burgers. But a while after he had published the list, he decided to check back in on his winner. And what he found was a pretty dispiriting example of the way modern food reviewing and publicity works. It’s a really well written, introspective piece, and here’s an excerpt:

“From a content perspective, my final list overachieved. It got the proper number of engagements, and shares, and clicks, and all the other analytics boss folks use in the Billy Beane Moneyball era of journalism, and the video with Steve Stanich joyfully weeping got millions of views and I got to go on podcasts and radio shows and be interviewed by local newspapers. People could disagree with my picks (and they did!), but they couldn’t call what I’d done clickbait. I’d done the work. I’d made a good list.

But then, a month or so later, a different sort of story emerged. The first was in Seattle, where the local restaurant critic wrote about Loretta’s Northwesterner (No. 4 on my top 100), a small local bar that was now being overrun by burger tourists. I heard from friends in Chicago of the many grumblings at Mott Street (No. 7) where people were waiting hours for the bar-only burger while tables in the restaurant sat open. And then came Stanich’s.”

Canterbury Rugby League is asking for a sideline booze ban to combat a rising tide of “volatile and unsafe” behaviour, reports Stuff. Clubs are complaining about having to deal with alcohol-fuelled mischief on a weekly basis, and there have even been a few assaults. It would be up to the Council to impose the ban, but the problems sound pretty severe, so it’s hard to see why they’d turn the request down.

Finally, this is a fantastic column from Hawke’s Bay Today sports editor Anendra Singh about Ajaz Patel, and the rebirth of spin bowling in New Zealand. It’s almost unfathomable even now – the idea that a pair of spinners might have effectively bowled New Zealand to a test victory. But with the centre of gravity of cricket increasingly moving to the subcontinent, it’s only going to become more important for New Zealand to be developing good spinners.

From our partners: Lithium-ion batteries are magnificent feats of engineering and vital for renewable energy. But if we’re not careful with them, they’ll create enormous environmental problems, writes Vector Senior Sustainability Advisor Juhi Shareef.

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