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Hui with Media

Hui with Media

Hui with Media, Te Rau Aroha Marae, BluffSaturday 14 May 2011, 1pm
Rahui Katene, MP for Te Tai Tonga [Delivered by Lyn Wairau on her behalf]

I am so disappointed at being unable to be with you today.

It is all a question of tikanga.

For when I heard of the loss of our Aunty Tilly Katene at Takapuwahia, my heart and my soul told me where I must be.

This is, of course, the topic very much at the core of what you will be discussing over the next 24 hours – tikanga, marae protocol, te reo, waiata, whaikorero.

I have to say I am greatly heartened by your willingness to be here, to learn about kaupapa and tikanga Maori, to take up the opportunity to listen and learn about Maori worldviews.

Why is this important?

Well, for a start, we must and can do better in the media, in terms of how we reflect Maori perspectives.

I have a regular session on my radio show called “the media got it wrong….again” where I profile some of the more notable errors of perception that have occurred in the last week – I’m never short of examples.

It is an opportune time to be considering the nature of the relationship between Maori and the media.

In this last week the Maori Party has been fighting actions by both television and radio hierarchies, as they pull back from Maori perspectives.

Radio New Zealand has made the fateful decision to cut Waatea News bulletins – supposedly as a cost-cutting measure.

Meanwhile the Television New Zealand amendment bill is making its way through the House – a bill we are opposing because of the way in which it removes the charter from its legislation – charter which established the expectation that in its programming and workforce, Television New Zealand would reflect the  participation of Maori and the presence of a significant Maori voice.

While it is extremely disappointing that the state broadcasters are taking such retrograde steps, there is much that you can do, as individual agents of the fourth estate; to ensure Maori worldviews are recognised and valued.

Five years ago United Nations Special Rapporteur, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, presented a report on the status of indigenous peoples, after his mission to New Zealand.

One of the recommendations of that report was that

“public media should be encouraged to provide a balanced, unbiased and non-racist picture of Maori in New Zealand society, and an independent commission should be established to monitor their performance and suggest remedial action”.

The rationale for such a strong recommendation was outlined in the report as a response to a 2004 study on Maori and the media which found that newspapers and television are fairly unbalanced in their treatment of Maori people and issues.

In general, bad news about Maori dominated over the good.   Maori were frequently portrayed as poor managers, either corrupt or financially incompetent.   In some media denigrating and insulting comments about Maori were reported.

So what do you think?   Are things any different now?

If we were to look at the ODT or the Southland Times you might find some excellent commentary from some of greatest minds – Tahu Potiki; Rawiri Taonui or even the MP for Te Tai Tonga.

And if you switch onto Te Karere there is a regular weekly contribution from Maori Party MPs along with Maori MPs from Labour or National giving their particular views of the events of the day.

On mainstream television there is a stunning series on a Sunday night which often features positive stories about Maori community champions in the Good Sorts programme.

And on Maori Television, Te Kaea will often be followed with an excellent indepth interview with a Maori political analyst.

Is this enough?  Or is it a five minute wonder designed as an add-on rather than the main feature?

Let us look at one of the more controversial issues of the day, to consider how to understand whether our news is framed from a culturally competent perspective, or whether it perpetuates the monocultural bias of years gone by.

And I would recommend to you all, a good read of a study issued last August, by Raema Merchant.  The report, Who are abusing our children, focused on the way in which the topic of child abuse was addressed by media commentators.

One of the findings sums it up for me, and I quote:

“The over-reporting and focus on Maori children as being victims of physical abuse or of Maori whanau as being perpetrators of that abuse points to a bias in the way that the media represents physical abuse to the public.

The comparison with the official data indicates that there may be instances of selective, conscious exaggerations in the newspaper based on the preconceptions of the media themselves.”

It comes down to the basic question – does the media reflect the world – or affect the world?

Another fascinating insight into the questions comes from the study ‘The portrayal of Maori and te Ao Maori in broadcasting”.

The study concluded that broadcasters perceived and told a story of inherent conflict between Maori rights and non-Maori and Crown rights.

That story duly characterizes Maori as unreasonable and aggressive while non-Maori are portrayed as rational and law-abiding,  and the Crown as the guardians of national interest.

I have been pondering further on these findings as I look back over say even the last week in reporting on the critical news stories for the day.

So I chose to look at Maori Television news because one might hope that would be where the best examples of Maori worldviews might be found.

For two nights in a row, Te Kaea profiled a protest that had taken place at Auckland University, as a group of nine students spoke out about what  they described as the “gutter politics, racial separatism and divisive behaviour” of resigning MP Hone Harawira.

And yet two of the most incredible achievements – the 100,000th home insulated under the Warm UP NZ scheme -  or the  fresh announcement of 200 jobs being created for our rangatahi in the construction industry in Christchurch – barely rated a mention.

Now of course one might say I had a vested interest – the Maori Party being responsible for these two significant announcements.

But actually the vested interest is our whanau – low income families who through the additional $24 million we were able to negotiate, are now able to benefit from warm, insulated, healthy homes.

Or our young people, who deserve the opportunity of a training incentive and employment options, instead of being relegated to the unemployment queue.

One might be led to think that even our own Maori Television is more interested in tabloid politics or sensational, conflict-ridden stories about Maori, than it is on ensuring that positive achievements for Maori are promoted in their bulletins.

There are plenty more examples I could find in newspapers, radio, television or social network sites, but it would probably take up the rest of this weekend, just trawling over the various perspectives and cultural understandings that permeate our press.

I refuse to finish, as the harbinger of bad news.

The Maori Party’s modus operandi is to focus on the solutions and the strategies that will take us forward in all spheres of our lives.

And so, finally, I refer you to a very useful checklist that was produced by Kupu Taea – Media and Te Tiriti Project. Here are some of the simple steps they recommend.

  • Ensure that story frames include Maori rather than excluding them from groups such as taxpayers, New Zealanders;
  • Be proactive about using te reo Maori;
  • Explain the relevant treaty clauses as background to a resources dispute;
  • Avoid ‘dial a Maori’ source and seek out more whanau, hapu and iwi sources or marae
  • Take a long term view of history and think of Maori perspectives about an issue before deciding what you think may be newsworthy – for example a Maori contact may consider the spiritual  value of a river  rather than pollution

Of course this checklist is but a starting point for you all to follow in your own local community.

Ultimately the best checklist will be one that you develop over time, with the benefit of your discussions with whanau, hapu and iwi.

It will be one which demonstrates your commitment to listening, learning and living together, Maori and Pakeha, Maori and Pasifika, Maori and Asian.

And it will be a checklist which enables you to ascertain your own cultural competency; your own familiarity with Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a basis for social justice; your own relationships with Maori.

Thank you again for indicating your attitude and aptitude for responding to, reflecting and respecting the actions and views of tangata whenua.

I leave you with the words that have been given to us as inspiration for this hui

Ka mate kainga tahi; Ma ora kainga rua.

There is more than one way to achieve an objective.

I wish you all the best in finding and shaping your own unique approach to the media in a way which will enable New Zealand to be truly representative.

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