“Just before the election I broke the story about the gutting of Maori Television’s News and Current Affairs department by MTS’ new CEO Paora Maxwell. I pointed out that Carol Hirschfeld and Julian Wilcox, two of the country’s most experienced and most talented Maori broadcasters were likely to have their jobs disestablished, forcing them both to have to reapply for new positions.
“I also said that the proposed staffing changes were politically charged and being led by the former National MP and Chair of the MTS Board, Georgina Te Heuheu, Co-Vice President of the Maori Party and MTS Board Member, Donna Gardiner, and declared Maori Party supporter and CEO of Maori Television, Mr Maxwell, who might be trying to exert editorial control over both Te Kaea and Native Affairs, to get more favourable treatment of government policies.
“Mr Maxwell condemned my views, but both Wilcox and Hirschfeld have since resigned rather than be forced to reapply for lower level positions.
“Mr Maxwell also gave an undertaking that the changes were purely operational and that there would be no political interference in the decisions made by the News and Current Affairs Division.
“Well … that undertaking has lasted just one month, with Maxwell telling Native Affairs staff that there was no way he would allow me to come onto Native Affairs final show of the year, set to go to air live on Monday 3 November.
I had already been invited by Native Affairs to feature in the show alongside other ex-MPs, Tau Henare and Shane Jones (see emails below), but when Maxwell found out he called in the Native Affairs team and told them point-blank that I would not be allowed on the show. No problems with Henare, no problem with Jones, but no way for Harawira.
On Friday 12 August, I am quoted as saying “Political interference in the news is an ugly charge to level, but it’s hard to see what else it might be called.”
On Friday 24 October, it is clear that “political interference in the news” is exactly what is happening at Maori Television.
See previous press releases and invitation to attend Native Affairs
PRESS RELEASE: Friday 12 August
MANA Leader and Tai Tokerau MP, Hone Harawira
“Earlier this week I issued a warning about restructuring at Maori Television (MTS) which would involve Te Kaea being wound up, Native Affairs being turned into a magazine-style show, and staff cuts across MTS’ news and Current Affairs division.
“The Chair of the Board of Maori Television Georgina Te Heuheu, and the CEO, Paora Maxwell, immediately issued statements saying that my comments were ‘incorrect’ and nothing more than ‘conjecture’.
“But today my concerns were confirmed in a NZ Herald report that the Government did not want the proposed changes to become public knowledge one week out from the election” states MANA Leader and MP for Te Tai Tokerau Hone Harawira. “The Herald also reported that staff feared a crackdown, and suggested that the other two people who applied for the CEO’s job, Carol Hirschfield and Julian Wilcox, might be either made redundant or offered a lesser role within the organisation.”
“The best way to clear all this up of course is for Ms Te Heuheu and Mr Maxwell to come clean about the proposed restructure, but I doubt that they will, for a couple of very simple reasons.
“Firstly, former National MP Georgina Te Heuheu and current Co-Vice President of the Maori Party, Donna Gardiner, were instrumental in appointing a declared Maori Party supporter, Paora Maxwell, to the position of CEO, a controversial appointment that was widely criticised within MTS.
“And secondly, because it seems that Te Heuheu, Gardiner and Maxwell, might be trying to exert editorial control over both Te Kaea and Native Affairs, to get more favourable treatment of government policies’
“Political interference of the news is an ugly charge to level, but it’s hard to see what else it might be called”
“I call on Te Heuheu and Maxwell to let the staff, and the wider public, know exactly what they had mind and I call on them to do it now”
PRESS RELEASE: Tuesday 16th September
MANA leader and Tai Tokerau MP, Hone Harawira
“Normally I’m happy to tell people that I was right but when I received the news about the staff cuts at Maori Television, I had nothing but sympathy for the three Maori media leaders who are going to be made to fight for the one job
“Over the past two weeks, the Chair of Maori Television, Georgina Te Heuheu, Maori Television, CEO Paora Maxwell, and the leadership of the Maori Party have told the public that I was wrong regarding the proposed changes at MTS. It is now obvious that they lied and that two people that went for the CEO’s job are going to be made to scrap it out in a three-way race for the newly created position, Head of Production and Programming
“I remind the public that the leadership of MTS made an undertaking that the News and Current Affairs Division would remain untouched and that no staff would lose their job.
“Now it is public knowledge that the Head of News and Current Affairs, Julian Wilcox, will have his position disestablished, as will Carol Hirschfield, the Head of Production. “Who else is on the chopping block at MTS? Will other staff lose their job? Why is the CEO getting rid of two talented Maori who have had long broadcasting careers? Why are these changes being announced within one week of the election?”
“Again I urge Dr Pita Sharples to intervene and stop these changes. If he doesn’t then I stand by my comments that the current changes within MTS are politically charged and being led by the former National MP and Chair of the MTS Board, Georgina Te Heuheu, and current Co-Vice President of the Maori Party and MTS Board Member, Donna Gardiner.
“MTS is a vitally important service for our people and should be free of political interference; the decision to disestablish three positions of their Executive Team and having them to apply for the one job will greatly diminish the service they current provide.”