Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Radio NZ patronising and racist

In recent years the New Zealand media have almost unanimously begun their news with greetings in the Maori language (Te Reo). RadioNZ National’s Morning Report is the worst offender, beginning each hour with greetings, slogans and introductions in Te Reo – with no translation for the benefit of those who don’t speak the language.

This may well be done in response to government decree, designed to appease ‘Maori’. However I do wonder WHICH Maori? Do they speak for all Maori?

Who are they are pandering to? And do they REALLY think this propaganda exercise makes a difference, or helps improve the situation of Maori in this country?

It’s nothing more than tokenism of the worst kind, designed to look pretty, providing little real programming commitment to Te Reo. It is therefore racist, as it assumes that this is ALL that Maori want.

RadioNZ National’s website focusses extensively on the issue of Te Reo ‘in peril’. However, given the lack of Te Reo programming on the station generally, it sounds incredibly patronising to Maori to involve them in what appears to be a politically-motivated agenda. And to claim that a few meaningless greetings and slogans are improving the language is political cynicism at its worst, aimed at appeasing a radical fringe that doesn’t represent the general Maori population.

It reminds me of an event I attended at Parliament a few years back. As a disability support staffer at Massey University, I was invited to the official opening of the Office for Disability Issues. The event was managed by then Minister of Disability Issues, Ruth Dyson, and lasted about an hour. A large part of the event was taken up with a Maori welcome. This was followed by further discussion in Te Reo. None of this was explained or translated for those of us who did not speak the language. I mentioned this to the colleague I was with. Her response was quite indicative – to the effect that it is acceptable because Maori have been mistreated by white people for generations, and that white folks deserve this because they are racist! My colleague said that, though she didn’t understand everything being said, it was okay because SHE had tried to learn Te Reo and brought her kids up around Maori people!

Well give me a break! Who’s the racist here? And why?

Anyway, back to Morning Report. I emailed them last week, asking whether they could explain their behaviour, and whether there is ever any translation for the benefit of those who do not speak Te Reo. I also asked why there is no evidence of significant Maori programming content on RadioNZ, and why Te Reo is not used more extensively – either on their show or RadioNZ in general.

It’s been several days now and I’ve as yet had no reply. The good folks at RadioNZ must’ve thought I’m a neo-Nazi skinhead white supremacist. Or something. But the onus is still on them. RadioNZ should, at the very least explain why they do it, honestly! And provide English translations of what they are saying, for the benefit of those who don’t speak Te Reo.

And along with the rest of the NZ media, they need to get real.

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