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Hui-A-Tau: Jane Wrightson & Larry Parr talk change

Two sessions at Ngā Aho Whakaari’s Hui-A-Tau featured Larry Parr, now the CE of Te Māngai Pāho, and presenters from NZ On Air. Jane Wrightson presented in the Barry Barclay session on broadcasting, Brenda Leeuwenberg in the session on digital. The boundaries between the two – as several presenters acknowledged or addressed – are being ushered through the exit door.

“Damn, you lot are terrifying,” joked Wrightson after making her opening remarks in te reo Māori. “Congratulations. 20 years is an amazing achievement and, as a former head of SPADA, I know how hard running a guild is.”

Wrightson also acknowledged Barclay, saying, “I know it’s no coincidence that the session is named for him.”

Referring to Barclay’s 1996 protest outside NZ On Air’s offices against no Māori drama being selected for that year’s Sunday Theatre season for TVNZ, she said, “For the record he was right. We were wrong.”

While NZ On Air’s new strategy will be platform-agnostic funding of content, Wrightson was keen to point out, “TV is not dead. The numbers don’t support that.

“There is room for lots of things in the digital world,” Wrightson continued. “I don’t want to see a world where there’s only Facebook and YouTube and Google and Netflix. Local is important and it’s what we do. The scary part is achieving the production standards to complete with global content.”

Wrightson offered an overview of the changes being proposed for NZ On Air’s new funding strategy, much of it ground she’d covered in presentations to industry groups and at the Big Screen Symposium over the last few weeks. “We want to know you’re with us and we want you to fill in the gaps and tell us what we’ve missed.”

Barry Barclay protesting in wellington, 1996Photo: Phil Reid, Evening Post

Barry Barclay protesting in wellington, 1996
Photo: Phil Reid, Evening Post

Parr congratulated NZ On Air for grasping the nettle and laying out its plan for a new strategic approach. He also expressed “pleasure and surprise” at the liberal and intelligent use of te reo Māori in the published draft strategy.

As for TMP, he said, “We’ll be doing a similar exercise to NZ On Air. TMP is likely to become a platform agnostic funder of Māori language content. Te reo must sit above everything we do.”

Given the likely concerns of a predominantly Māori audience, Wrightson emphasised that – while the general plan was to consign all the separate little funds and calls that had grown up to meet particular needs in recent years to the dustbin of history – Rautaki Māori would remain a core principle.

“We’ve tweaked the wording to give it a more platform neutral feel. We’ll continue to support quality Māori content and we welcome creative ways to use te reo.”

In response to a question about decision-making, Wrightson said that there would probably be a tikanga appraisal for Māori content being pitched by TVNZ and MediaWorks, but not for projects coming out of Māori Television “because they know what they’re doing”.

Producer (and former NZ On Air board member) said she fully endorsed the new NZ On Air strategy, but suggested there should be one rule for all. Everybody, including Māori Television, should be subject to a tikanga appraisal.

New ways to promote and utilise te reo on screen formed a part of many of the hui’s sessions ahead of the Te Matawai session specifically devoted to the topic on the afternoon of the second day. Saying he couldn’t have chosen a more exciting time to lead the agency if he’d picked the date himself, Parr told the audience he was encouraged by Te Matawai, noting that change was needed. “My fervent hope is that it will be a catalyst for improvement.”

“I haven’t prepared a statement from TMP,” Parr began. “I thought it would be presumptive as I don’t start until Monday and I thought the staff should be the first to hear my thoughts.

“I’ve got a few.”

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