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Finance Minister Raised Concerns About TPK Funding Of MTS Bid

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Bill English
Bill English

Wellington, Oct 9 NZPA - Finance Minister Bill English raised concerns about taxpayer funds for Maori development being used for a Maori Television bid to screen Rugby World Cup games, it was reported today.

Maori Television (MTS) put in a $3 million taxpayer-funded bid -- greater than bids by Television New Zealand and TV3 -- for the 2011 World Cup's free-to-air broadcast rights.

The bid, supported by Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, was paid out of Te Puni Kokiri (Ministry for Maori Development) money set aside to foster Maori development and not the $16.5 million given to the channel to fund its operation.

Dr Sharples argued it was a good use of money as the games could be used as a platform for promoting the Maori language.

The New Zealand Herald reported that Finance Minister Bill English had raised concerns about TPK funding which he only learnt about after the bid went in.

It was only after the National Government became aware of the extra taxpayer funding being used that MTS changed its bid to allow sub-licensing rights for either TVNZ or TV3.

Mr English was told about the TPK funding in a letter from Associate Maori Affairs Minister Georgina te Heuheu.

He received the letter on September 7 but the bid had gone in on September 4.

A spokesman for Mr English said he was overseas when Mrs te Heuheu's letter arrived.

"On receiving the letter, the Finance Minister and his office raised concerns about the process and the proposed TPK funding with both TPK and Minister Sharples."

MTS spokeswoman Sonya Haggie confirmed the station originally sought exclusive rights but last week told the International Rugby Board it was open to changing its bid to allow it to sub-license the rights to TVNZ or TV3.

Prime Minister John Key on Monday said he expected whoever won the bid to be able to broadcast to the whole country -- MTS reaches about 90 percent.

Broadcasting sources said it would not be possible to sub-license only to cover MTS blackspots and that TVNZ and TV3 would want their own commentary on matches.

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