Hard News by Russell Brown


Media3: The Maori Media Man

One of the most fascinating elements of the current dispute between iwi and the goverment over water rights has been the battle for control of the story -- and the way that battle has been won by one side.

In ordering National's Maori MPs to stay away from King Tuheitia's national hui on water rights, the Prime Minister was looking to diminish the importance of the hui, to, as far as possible, make it disappear. It didn't work: instead, you had Tracy Watkins last week paying tribute to the King's "inspired genius" in assembling such a big, broad church:

The king's hui bought together the A-listers of Maoridom, but that wasn't the inspired bit.

In Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana's words, the B-listers, the C-listers and even the Z-listers were also invited and their voices heard.

So too were women, urban Maori, and groups like the Maori Women's Welfare League.

That is what set it apart from any other forum in recent years.

And then, this week, the government's own hui, designed to confine the water claims issue in a way that suited the government's position, attracted this horrible headline: Attendance at first water rights hui: 12. It was a different story today, with Ngati Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa turning out in force and declaring their intent to continue negotiating directly with the government, rather than take the pan-Maori path. But by then, I think, Tainui and the King had pretty much won the story.

The coverage of these events has been pretty good in general, but I found Monday night's Native Affairs on Maori Television particularly interesting. It began with, as you'd expect, a report on the King's water hui -- which spent some time on the role of the King's spokesman, Tukuroirangi Morgan and his authority as chair of the hui.

From there, host Julian Wilcox conducted a fairly demanding interview down the line with Bill English, then ran a useful panel discussion with Dr Ranginui Walker, Ella Henry and the crisp, impressive Ward Kamo -- before moving on to an interview with Hekia Parata and a lighter story on a South Auckland dance crew. It was a strong show.

Wilcox is now, of course, not only the host of Native Affairs -- he's also Maori Television's head of news and current affairs, and thus an even more important component of his channel's voice than he used to be. And he's out there -- his live-tweeting from the water hui was informative and sometimes amusing. And his riffing yesterday on John Key's declaration that Maori have "more positions than Lady Gaga's got outfits" (hashtag: #waigaga) was priceless. It would be fair to say he has a more casual public persona than most TV news chiefs.

Julian Wilcox will be joining us on Media3 this week, to discuss the hui, and the job of reporting for and to Maori -- even when the rest of us are watching too.

I'll also be speaking to barrister Grant Illingworth about the free speech dimension of the dreadful The Innocence of Muslims film and its violent international fallout. Should we expect YouTube to take down a film that's getting people killed -- or is our freedom to watch a bad, hateful movie the whole point?

And then we'll have a little something I won't tell you about yet. But it's sexy. Literally.

You can come along to tomorrow evening's Media3 recording: we'll want you at the Villa Dalmacija ballroom, 10 New North Road at 5.30pm for a 6pm recording. I, for one, am looking forward to it.

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