Māori Television launched

28 March 2004

Māori Television logo (Wikimedia)

A dawn pōwhiri at Māori Television’s new offices in Newmarket, Auckland, was covered in the first transmission next day.

The birth of a separate Māori channel followed a prolonged and difficult gestation. In 1985 the New Zealand Māori Council had proposed to run the planned third television channel through the Aotearoa Broadcasting System. This application failed and the legislation creating TVNZ Ltd as a state-owned enterprise in 1988 did not address the portrayal of Māori language and culture on television.

Aotearoa Television began broadcasting in 1996 with public funding, but folded the following year amidst allegations of undue haste and mismanagement. Māori Television’s first two chief executives resigned under clouds and the channel’s launch was delayed.

Māori Television’s founding legislation requires it to inform and educate, and broadcast ‘mainly’ in the Māori language. Largely taxpayer-funded, it has become New Zealand’s de facto public TV channel, especially on national occasions such as Anzac and Waitangi Days. More than half its audience is non-Māori. A second channel, Te Reo, which broadcasts entirely in Māori, began in 2008.

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