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The Māori public sphere

Volume 11, Issue 1

April, 2005

From page
13
to page
25
Stuart, Ian (2005). The Māori public sphere. Pacific Journalism Review, 11(1): 13-23.
Author(s): Ian Stuart
Publication date: 
April, 2005

At this moment in New Zealand’s history there is a need for healthy political debate on a range of issues. Specifically, the foreshore and seabed issue has created division and fears between Māori and Pakeha and brought the Treaty of Waitangi to the fore again. As well, settlements of historic grievances with Māori have added to growing Pakeha unease. In this climate there is a need for wide-ranging public discussion of these issues, and the news media seem the obvious site for those discussions. But how well are the New Zealand news media fulfilling that role? This commentary takes the public sphere to be the sum total of all visible decision-making processes within a culture and uses this concept as an analytical tool to examine aspects of the health of New Zealand’s democracy. It uses discourse analysis approaches to show how the mainstream media are in fact isolating Māori from the general public sphere and, after outlining some general aspects of the Māori public sphere, argues that the news media’s methodologies, grounded in European-based techniques and approaches, are incapable of interacting with the Māori public sphere. I am arguing that while there is an appearance of an increased awareness and discussion of cultural issues, the mainstream media are, in reality, sidelining Māori voices and controlling the political discussion in favour of the dominant culture. They are therefore not fulfilling their self-assigned role of providing information for people to function within our democracy.