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Te Reo Internet? 25 July 2001 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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In the same month that Auckland hospital ran out of beds to treat acute admissions, Helen Clark has announced that we do have our priorities right and that $176m is going to be spent over the next four years on the creation and operation of a Maori TV channel.

So, if you're stupid enough to get really sick then you're out of luck -- but if you're keen to watch some "politically correct" Maori TV then boy, you're in luck!

Now I'm not going to criticise those who want to build a TV channel specifically targeting Maori -- it's a laudable goal and they are to be commended.

We're told that the provision of Maori TV is a part of our "treaty obligation" to preserve the Maori culture which I can accept -- but might we have found a better, more cost-effective way to handle this commitment in such a hi-tech age?

Reports indicate that the Maori TV channel will reach just 70% of the target population -- and many of the nation's poorer Maori, who live in rural areas, will be out of luck. Does this start to smell a little of "toys for the boys" rather than a serious attempt to reach heartland Maori?

What good will Maori TV be to those poor, underprivileged Maori up north who can't even afford electricity to warm and light their substandard housing? Is the best we can offer these people a Maori TV channel that they can't even receive?

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
  • Great Idea, but... - Carl
  • Watching TV... - Kane
  • I Agree... - Greg
  • Start of a good idea... - Grant
  • Now that's thinking laterally... - Martin
  • Internet v TV... - Lindsay
  • Have Your Say

    Now, just in case you think I've completely deviated from things Internet, I'd like to float the idea of integrating the nation's treaty obligations in respect to Maori culture with the government's already stated agenda to bridge the digital divide.

    What about this for an idea...

    Instead of giving the silk-undies brigade yet another free lunch at the expense of NZ"s taxpayers and the poor Maori who really need and deserve our assistance, why not use the Net to deliver this cultural enlightenment?

    I'm sure that a reasonably high percentage of those Maori households that have the modern TV set and UHF aerial required to receive the proposed Maori TV broadcasts will also have a PC of some kind. If the cultural obligation was delivered via the Net then these people would be ready to go -- right from day one.

    Now stop and think about how many PCs and modems just $50m would buy for those other Maori who want to access this material. I figure you could buy over 40,000 brand-new Net-capable PCs for that amount -- and probably three times as many machines if you shopped on the second-hand market or tapped into the huge number of ex-corporate machines that get biffed every year.

    Even those who didn't have, want or qualify for a PC could still access the material published on the Net by visiting their local cybercafe -- or in many cases their local library.

    However, here's the real strength of the Net as a delivery vehicle for this material -- INTERACTION!

    Television is a totally passive medium. It turns sensible, intelligent, thinking people into couch-potatoes.

    Now take the Maori language for example -- you can't effectively learn Maori by watching people talk Maori -- you have to get involved and interact!

    What's more -- those underprivileged Maori who qualified for a free or subsidised PC for their kids under such a scheme would also be significantly enhancing the educational opportunities open to them by way of the Net or remote-learning resources. Being a skilled TV watcher doesn't usually carry much sway when you're trying to find a job -- having even modest computer skills often does!

    Also consider the issue of content. The creation of broadcast-quality TV content is incredibly expensive -- and this is the main reason that so much money is being allocated to the Maori TV venture.

    Net-based content is far cheaper to create -- but the real benefit is that, if managed properly, Te Internet would, like so many interactive Net-services, benefit from a huge amount of viewer-created content.

    Take for example the need to discuss important issues relating to Maori culture. If you're using TV as a medium then you're probably going to get the usual line-up of "talking heads" who will discuss the issues while watched by the viewing audience. Use the Net however, and *EVERY* person who wants to have their say can be included.

    Unlike some, I'm not opposed to Maori TV. I just think that it's absolute folly to pour $176 million into such a limited medium when another could be far better used to help preserve the culture -- while also bringing many other social and educational benefits to those who need them most.

    Also, unless someone gives Helen Clark a good slap upside her head so as to knock some commonsense into her then we run the risk of good, honest Kiwis, quite a number of them Maori, quite a number of them elderly, dying for lack of effective and affordable hospital treatment. Remember Helen, dead people don't make good viewers of Maori or any TV content!

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