Despite little public support, broadcaster Willie Jackson is continuing his attacks on New Zealand's last outpost of public broadcasting. But the standards he is applying to RNZ National don't appear to also apply to the commercial media.

ALTHOUGH HE'S NOT really getting any traction with his attacks on New Zealand's last outpost of public broadcasting, broadcaster Willie Jackson is continuing his critical assault on RNZ National.

In a new column Jackson declares: "A station that gets $35 million in taxpayers funding now not only doesn’t have one Maori presenter in prime time but it doesn’t have any Maori news." He continues elsewhere in his column that "RNZ has a colonialist BBC mind-set which discriminates against Maori presenters."

RNZ National has adopted a smarter strategy of integrating Maori news into its overall news and current affairs content rather than 'ghettoising' it. This, says RNZ 's Head of Content Carol Hirschfeld (who is Maori), allows stories to be covered in depth.

But Jackson hankers for the days when the non commercial national radio broadcaster ran a stand alone news bulletin. It cancelled that bulletin, Te Manu Korihi , in October of last year and it is since then that Jackson has suddenly decided that RNZ National aren't doing enough for Maori. Te Manu Korihi, ran for some five years between 2006 and 2011 and just happened to be provided by Willie Jackson's Waatea News.

Certainly any proposal that RNZ National should have a 15 percent Maori quota imposed on it, which is what Willie Jackson wants, would see him queuing up for a financially lucrative contract to provide some of that content.

Rather than attacking what remains of public broadcasting in this country - and which needs all the support it can get - Jackson would be better served using his prominent position within the mainstream media talking about the dangers represented by the ever-increasing commercialisation of the mainstream media and its control by a small number of corporate players. Does this not directly curtail the exposure of Maori issues in the media? Isn't this more of an issue than what he thinks RNZ should be doing?

Perhaps he'd like to talk about how TVNZ, despite the fact it is owned by the state, has no public service obligation. Or is he happy with that?

Or perhaps he'd like to write a column about how Mediaworks, unlike RNZ National, has a zero commitment to Maori content on its network of radio and television stations.

While he's writing that column perhaps he'd like to tell us why the Mediaworks station he works for, Radio Live, has no Maori talkback hosts other than himself. And if a minimum 15 percent Maori quota is so essential for Jackson then why hasn't he introduced such a quota on his own Radio Live afternoon show, which he co hosts with Ali Mau.

And, while he's at it, perhaps Jackson could explain why the 'two political commentators' who feature every Thursday on his Radio Live show are both Pakeha - Chris Trotter and Rodney Hide. Not much 'ethnic balance' here, Willie. Or 'gender balance' come to that.

The fact is that RNZ National doesn't pretend that its perfect when it comes to issues Maori, but it has demonstrated a clear commitment to Maori under the terms of its charter which says it will give expression to the country's 'identity and diversity'.

But apparently its Jackson who wants to decide how RNZ conforms to its charter.

And while Jackson holds RNZ to his public service standards why isn't he applying his same rigorous standards to the commercial media? Or do corporations like Mediaworks get Jackson's personal 'get out of jail free ' card when its comes to its obvious lack of coverage of Maori interests and issues?

The commercial media should have exactly the same public service standards applied to it that Jackson is, for political and financial reasons, only prepared to apply to RNZ.

Jackson won't apply those public standards to the commercial media because, in the end, his loyalties lie with the commercial media. Such a loyalty means he has nothing to say about a corporate like Mediaworks which, in a bid for ratings and revenue, has adopted an even crasser brand of commercialism that has been to the detriment of our overall media culture.


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