CAPTION: Jim Mather with the his partner Annabel Lee, the executive producer of The Hui.
Jim Mather has been appointed chairman of Radio New Zealand. The new appointment comes at the end of an extended term for Richard Griffin He held the post for two-three year terms and agreed to stay on for an extra year. The chairmanship of Radio NZ in the 2000-teens was difficult. The National Party starved Radio NZ of money and it had to sell assets. Finally the Nats relented.
Problems were resolved last year with extra funding in the Budget. When Labour got elected to lead the Government, the problem became too much political attention from Government, rather than too little.
Griffin had been associated with National through his past role as press secretary to Jim Bolger. He had enjoyed good relationship withe Labour in the past. But he had never gotten on with Clare Curran, the new and pro-active minister of broadcasting. Curran formed an ambitious policy pf a new TV channel without talking Radio NZ/ Griffin and Radio NZ chief executive Paul Thompson resisted Labour plans to create the new TV channel. The Government and Radio NZ were looking in different directions. Then came the sudden departure of Carol Hirschfeld. The senior executive left after she was found her bosses about a meeting with Curran. It was a bizarre incident and we still do not know what happened
But it has left stain on the relationship between Radio NZ and the minister.
The upshot is that Jim Mather and the chief executive Paul Thompson will need to establish good relations with Labour before it can even try to maintain them. Mather may have the right manner for that approach. As chief executive of Maori Television for nine years. he maintained an efficient and mostly happy media workplace that spun out after he left. He went on to run the Maori educational body Te Waning o Aotearoa. He will not be as media savvy as Richard Griffin. But he knows people who know their way around. Mather is the partner of the Maori broadcaster Annabel Lee. who was executive producer for the Maori TV current affairs show Native Affairs. Currently she makes The Hui for TV3.
A key question now will be whether the appointment of Mather – a Maori – will hasten Radio NZ moves to increase its Maori content. That cause was promoted by Willie Jackson, a former leader of Maori broadcaster with past ties to Mather. Jackson is also a leader in the Maori Labour caucus and has close inks to Maori broadcasters.
Radio NZ needs to better reflect Maori in its programming. But the Radio NZ networks are finely tuned to its listener.he question be whether Radio NZ can make changes and take existing listeners along with it. That was not the case last year when RNZ introduced of basic Maori language content . It was done without consultation with specific staff but little consultation with listeners. Some inside Radio NZ are wary that the top – management of RNZ – combined with the reforming zeal of Labour – lack the nuance and skills to create the transition to a more Maori Radio NZ.