Complaint about ‘racist’ manglings of Pasifika names

Last week the national ruby league teams of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga faced off in Sydney.

Critics say commentators are not pronouncing Pasifika names correctly.

“To me it qualifies as a racist act because racism is when one particular culture or race feels that they can dominate the other and through Te Reo, language,” said New Zealand’s Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) chair Will ‘Ilolahia.

Ilolahia says he sent off a letter to Foxtel over the calling of a weekend rugby double-header involving Fiji versus Papua New Guinea and Tonga against Samoa.

He said there was a huge response on social media against the way names were mangled, with some viewers saying they had to switch off the sound because they felt so insulted.

“They were just butchering the names and even laughing at some of it as they were saying it, and that’s not just on.”

“It’s just another method of perpetuating that racism so that’s why we have actually said it’s racist.”

‘Ilolahia said although commentators have struggled with names for years, with the increasing presence of Pasifika at the elite level, it was time for broadcasters to step up.

“Willie Ofahengaue is a well known Wallaby icon in Australia for more than a decade and his son plays for Tonga, and yet they were still calling him ‘Off-a-hen-gah-way. Pangai was called Pan-guy.”

“I mean how would these guys like to have their names basically mistrued,” he says.

Veteran New Zealand broadcaster John McBeth said he was not surprised by the complaints.

He said New Zealand commentators were not perfect but the Australians were much worse.

“Australian commentators really give the impression that they couldn’t care less.”

“That they look at a word, a name, and say it probably sounds something like this, let’s go with that, without any endeavour to check.”

McBeth said broadcasters needed to be professional.

“It’s part of a commentator’s brief, is to pronounce all names as correctly as possible. Whether it’s Pacific island, African or Asian, you’ve got to spend a lot of time, it’s part of being a commentator.”

Illolahia says Foxtel sent an apology, but there needs to be a programme of training its announcers in pronunciation of names from Aotearoa and te Moananui a Kiwa.

The Pacific Islands Media Association said it had offered to train broadcasters on Pacific pronunciation.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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