CAPTION: Willie Jackson and Labour’s Matt McCarten.
What happens to Auckland’s Waatea Maori Radio if Willie Jackson wins a place in the Labour caucus? As it stands he controls Waatea along with John Tamihere who head the urban Maori authorities for Manukau and Waipareira, though Jackson has an editorial role as well. He heads the National Urban Maori Authority and is chairman of the Iwi Maori Radio Association representing 21 stations. He has a significant influence on Maori broadcasting, and indirectly on Maori TV. Labour is expected to announce soon he has been given a high place on the Labour list raising questions about how the independence of these bodies is maintained. In my opinion that will need to be redoubled if Labour ends up leading the next government.
In his broadcasting role, Jackson has run fast and loose with Maori politics the past associating himself with individuals Maori Party and Mana works well with Winston Peters. He has become an exception to the rule on political association with media, partly because Maori broadcasting is so small and fraught with potential conflicts of interest. Waatea has taken a role as a broadcaster focused on the Left viewpoint and even had a show fronted by Bomber Bradbury at one stage. But it has been independent and allowed differing views to be presented.
An ability to maintain a finger in many pies is a testimony to Jackson’s skill as a politician and a businessman. But he also has his critics who believe his influence within Maori broadcasting is too pervasive.
Waatea has often been in the thick of Maori issues. For instance, the station appeared to back the Establishment side in the debate over Maori TV”s Native Affairs questioning the use of funds by the Te Kohanga-reo Trust, which led to upheavals at Maori TV, several departures and a defanging of Native Affairs.
Jackson’s friend and business partner John Tamihere is now on the board of MTS and played a key role in finding new studios in East Tamaki.
The upshot is that Maori broadcasting is intensely politicised and awash with potential conflicts of interest.That is the nature of such a close-knit community. Jackson is intensely political. If he joins Labour with Labour Party Maori politics.
It is understood that the Labour Party strategist Matt McCarten played a key role attracting Jackson to Labour. Another former colleague from Jackson’s Adays as a Mana Motuhake MP with the Alliance – former Internet Party leader Laila Harre – also said she plans to stand for Labour.
Jackson is a player.He has charm and can negotiate across Maoridom. He might well solve several Labour problems getting back onside with Maori. But you wonder if Labour has thought about the impacts on Maori media.