Ngā Kaikawekōrero: producing Māori television documentary in Aotearoa New Zealand
In Aotearoa New Zealand, television documentary is a particularly significant genre through which Māori stories can be told from Māori perspectives. Additionally, the wide reach of mainstream television makes it an ideal platform for communicating Māori stories in a way that can advance inter-iwi and cross-cultural dialogue in Aotearoa. However, for decades, the ability for Māori documentary producers to have their stories told on mainstream television has been a very difficult task. This stems from the fact that te Ao Māori presents a different worldview from that of mainstream – predominantly Pākehā – audiences. Opportunities for Māori programming on State-owned broadcaster Television New Zealand (TVNZ) have been limited further since the advent of the Māori Television Service (MTS) in 2004.
Focusing on the period 2000 – 2010, this study draws from interviews conducted with Māori documentary producers about the nature of their work and the challenges they have faced within the context of New Zealand television broadcasting. Further analysis situates producers’ experiences within relevant institutional and political contexts. Focus group sessions with young Māori media students supplement discussions about television documentary representations of Māori, and a formal documentary analysis of Hīkoi: Inside Out seeks to demonstrate the possibilities for kaupapa Māori documentary on mainstream television.
Māori documentary producers understand their main role to be that of ‘storyteller’, a role that entails specific responsibilities to Māori. Challenges of access to mainstream television were mainly due to the increasing commercialization of networks and the disparate requirements of funders and broadcasters. Although policy initiatives have improved issues of access, variance between stakeholder demands limited the extent to which practices of tikanga Māori can be incorporated into production processes, further inhibiting the development of distinctly Māori narratives. While this study recognizes that the increased presence of Māori documentary across Tier 2 channels may be a future way forward, it also sees value in further discussion regarding the significance of TVNZ’s Treaty obligations alongside those of MTS to ensure adequate provisions are made for the inclusion of Māori documentary storytelling on mainstream television.