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Opinion: The future of Maori radio

Before we head into the future, we must always reflect on the past.

The Maori language was first heard on radio in 1927, followed by a full reo Maori broadcast in 1940 by Wiremu Parker (Ngati Porou) who presented a weekly news bulletin after the 28th Maori Battalion.

In 1985 Te Reo o Raukawa (Otaki) was on air part-time and then in 1987 Nga Kaiwhakapumau i te reo Maori established Te Upoko o te Ika which was fully functional by 1988 as the first Maori radio station. In 1993, as a result of undertakings given by the Crown in Waitangi Tribunal cases, Te Mangai Paho was created who now distributes funding for all 21 Maori radio stations, television, web content, Maori music and videos.

It’s now 2018. Has Maori radio contributed to the revitalisation of te reo Maori? Do you tune into Maori radio to learn te reo Maori? Is it useful for your whanau, hapu, iwi and community? Are you speaking more te reo as a direct result of Maori radio?

These are the questions that will be airing around in Parliament as the Crown look to distribute te reo Maori revitalisation funds more effectively. Recently, and for the first time, Maori radio was called in to meet with the Maori Affairs Select Komiti to explain how effective Maori radio is for our language with a plea to increase funding so that Maori radio is on par with other national radio stations – namely Radio NZ.

Technology will play a massive part in what radio will look like in the future. As we are aware, the video/visual realm is almost taking over radio. Most radio stations accompany sound with visuals these days.  And the fact most people don’t have a radio anymore – they tune in from devices – possibly the only effective radio platform is in vehicles, which means radio is a drive to work and home commodity.

My predictions for Maori radio in 2050 is that the Crown will create a super Maori radio vehicle like Maori TV, with iwi production units who will create content for the particular iwi regions. Just imagine an iwi content menu that viewers/listeners can choose from to connect with iwi. Just imagine regionalised clusters working together to deliver and create content.

My hapu, iwi and community benefit through a range of the language broadcast but also the social impacts through health and community events facilitated by the station. We have become more a counsellor, social worker and for some a connection to the iwi and Maori community.

I work for a Maori radio station which delivers on average 11 hours of Maori content daily with 8.5 hours of Maori music, 2-3 hours of spoken reo Maori and about 2.5 hours of spoken English language with the rest made up of English music.

A big question for me is: will Maori radio be entirely broadcast in te reo only or will it accommodate bilingual programmes to aid with the goal of normalisation?

Te Matawai was established recently to revitalise New Zealand’s indigenous language to a nurturing first language by and for iwi, Maori and Maori language stakeholders and communities. This establishment has created a scare among the Maori radio communities with the possibilities of funding cuts and mergers.

The future of Maori radio is uncertain, and we are hopeful that te reo Maori could perhaps be normalised and thriving in Aotearoa by 2050 – resulting in less need for revitalisation programmes but more around maintenance.

Maori radio and Maori TV are funded by the same organisation, and they carry out the same purpose. And regardless of whether Maori radio will be on the airwaves, broadcast, or online, it will still be a way to listen, share, learn, see and feel Maori in 2050 and beyond.

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