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Māori TV pulls plug on Jonah from Tonga

03 July 2017

Posted in: Pacific Radio News,

Māori Television's executive board has pulled the plug on a controversial comedy series that has stirred backlash from Pacific peoples.

Jonah from Tonga features Australian Chris Lilley, playing a 14-year-old boy Jonah Takalua.

Jonah from Tonga. Photo/ Supplied.

Māori TV aired the first episode last Thursday.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Alfred Ngaro criticised Māori TV's decision and says it reinforces negative stereotypes about Polynesian men.

In a statement sent to Pacific Radio News, Māori TV says they spoke with an elected Tongan leader to provide feedback from others in the Tongan community about the show. 

Māori TV says from the feedback they received, there were some concerns but overall the responses indicated that most considered it entertaining. 

Tongan community leader, Ika Tameifuna, says the show doesn't reflect real Tongans and he has no problem with it.

"I laughed when I watched it," he says. "That's [Jonah Takalua] not me or any Tongan that I know."

Meanwhile, Tongan community leader Salote Heleta Lilo says the series portrays the wrong image of Tonga. 

"I'm afraid that other people from overseas will think this is what Tonga looks like," she says. "Even though it's a comedy, it's totally unacceptable."

In a statement released by Māori TV this morning, chairperson Georgina te Heuheu says the values of Māori TV include respecting all communities. 

"As a leading indigenous broadcaster we have a responsibility to present all cultures with a degree of respect and aroha not least those of our Pacific whanaunga," she says.

Tags: Alfred Ngaro, Jonah from Tonga, Salote Heleta Lilo, Ika Tameifuna, Māori Television,