NZ Pacific MP upset at airing of Jonah from Tonga

RNZ reports New Zealand Labour Party MP Carmel Sepuloni has concerns over Māori Television choosing to air the controversial Australian TV comedy series Jonah from Tonga.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Alfred Ngaro has criticised the decision by the network to air the show, saying it perpetuated negative stereotypes of Pacific people.

Ms Sepuloni agreed, saying it reinforced crude stereotypes of the Tongan community.

She said the TV series was not something a Pacific family could sit down together and watch.

"The difference that I see between perhaps our comedians and the quality that they use and what we see here [Jonah from Tonga] is that there's a lot of profanity with Jonah and you don't see that generally with our Pacific comedian who appeal to that family audience and enable us to laugh at ourselves."

"There are some episodes where he the comedian Chris Lilley pretends to be sexually abusive. That is a poor portrayal of Tongans. That is not something you'll watch with your parents or your kids especially in a Tongan home.

"Ultimately people make their own decisions on what they want to watch and whether or not they find humour in it." she said.

Maori TV's Head of Content Mike Rehu said the broadcaster had been sensitive in airing the series.

"We do have some acquisition staff here at Māori TV who are part Polynesian and part Māori and they were the people that thought this might be a good product and piece of content for our channel, so we did through that process take up some consultation with the Tongan community and we got the green light from who we feel is a pretty good wide feedback from the Tongan community."

Mr Rehu said ultimately you could not please everyone.

A Tongan American military veteran started a petition to pull the show off America's HBO cable network in 2014, which was signed by almost 12,000 people.


Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson Carmel Sepuloni