Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Thirty five years of Tagata Pasifika, how does it feel celebrating 35 years for the show this year?
Well I can’t believe that the show has been on air for so long. From its early days when it literally opened TV2 at 11am on Saturdays to now, it’s heartwarming that several generations of Moana people have grown up with the show. There are very few shows that last longer than seven or more years and Tagata Pasifika has had such solid support from its Pacific communities that has given the programme strength and stamina over the decades.
You’ve been the longest serving producer for the show, what was it like making the show in the early days?
We stand on the shoulders of giants and I’d like to acknowledge the pioneers, Foufou Susana Hukui, Maligi Evile and of course our early Pacific politicians (the late Taito Phillip Field, Hon Vui Mark Gosche and Anae Arthur Anae) who ensured a year-long run of the show at a time. We were also blessed to be in (TVNZ) Māori Programmes where everyone was learning at the same time under the leadership of the late Ernie Leonard and the late Whai Ngata. Making the show was really time consuming because we were completely analogue and there were few resources. In fact, in the early days, Tagata Pasifika could only have a camera on a Saturday when News wasn’t using it. There were news expectations from our audience so that was tricky. We also cooperated with Radio NZ since we were under the same organisation BCNZ (Broadcasting Corporation of NZ) – so now, with the proposed super media organisation of TVNZ and RNZ, we have come full circle. One of the things that I found frustrating was being a recorded show so, if something was happening, we could not comment, interview or get a Pacific Perspective. So I am really glad the show is live most of the time.
Can you tell us about the feedback from the Pacific community in those early years?
The novelty of recognition struck me when Susana and I went to Christchurch to do some stories down there, and Pacific people would stop her in the street and she would be mobbed – only by the islanders though – the Palagi had no idea who she was. The tyranny of the schedule was a major problem for Pacific people as on Saturdays, they were busy at sports and at the market and on Sundays they were at church. The amazing thing was they cared about the show and would regularly attend community meetings to let us know what they wanted and to show the network and funders that they indeed valued the show. That was humbling. Of course there was the problem of meeting the expectations of 10 major island groups as well as their distribution around the country.
What were the challenges in those early years for TP, what has changed?
The challenges in the early days were resources and timeslot. Tagata Pasifika pioneered video journalism in this country with journalists using a very cheap Hi8 camera to gather news. The technical quality was terrible but the stories were relevant. Another change was when NZOA was established, we were given a budget and could purchase the resources (but manage them all the same) we needed. We have had many time slots – the best was actually 9.30am on Sunday mornings, the worst was sometime after 11pm on a Thursday night – it wandered all over the schedule. But as the online revolution gathered pace, time slots are less of an issue and linear television is itself changing.
How has Tagata Pasifika evolved in the digital age?
I guess we started early with our own news gathering and for a number of years we shared the whole programme on YouTube but we learnt that people consume media differently online so we began breaking the show up into bite sized pieces. Then we created TP+ (www.tpplus.co.nz) where all Tagata Pasifika material could reside as well as new material and written stories from the country and the region. We are really proud of TP+ (created with no funding) but now a platform in its own right. I think we produce just as many new stories on TP+ as we do for the linear show.
When did you know this platform was a game changer for telling Pacific stories in Aotearoa?
TP+ is one of many Pacific platforms for all our voices. We knew it was a game changer when it was recognised as a platform in its own right which is testimony to the hard work of the great people who have contributed to it. We have Soul Sessions and the Manalagi series lined up, made by other Pacific Production teams – how lucky are we?
What does the future hold for TP?
I hope that TP continues to be the trusted voice of the many Moana voices in Aotearoa and that it continues to affirm our Pacific identity here and in the region. Having reached matua status we hope to mentor new producers and moana production teams to tell our stories our way.