• Jonah from Tonga has been given the flick by Maori Television. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Jonah Takalua’s foul mouth and bad behaviour has gotten him into trouble again.
Laura Morelli

3 Jul 2017 - 5:49 PM  UPDATED 4 Jul 2017 - 8:41 AM

An Australian comedy series has been labelled an insult to Tongan culture.

Indigenous broadcaster, Maori Television has withdrawn the series Jonah from Tonga from screening on the channel.

Despite the Tongan community saying it was good to have a laugh at shows like this, New Zealand's Minister for Pacific Peoples, Alfred Ngaro, said the series perpetuates negative stereotypes of Pacific people.

Jonah from Tonga is an Australian television series written by and starring comedian Chris Lilley. It follows a rebellious Australian boy of Tongan descent who had been introduced in Lilley's 2007 series Summer Heights High.

Lilley plays Jonah Takalua, a 14-year-old Australian boy of Tongan descent sent back to Tonga because of his bad behaviour.

A Tongan American military veteran started a petition to pull the show off America’s HBO cable network in 2014. The Tongan teenager was seen as violent and disrespectful to Tongan culture. The petition went viral and was signed by almost 12 thousand supporters. 

"This means that 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."

Jonah Takalua was one of the favourite characters in Summer Heights High. The show was a hit in Australia, with views peaking at 1.6 million viewers with an average of 1.22 million. The program remained the highest-rating show in its timeslot and even saw the world's biggest celebrity, Justin Bieber using Jonah's absurd catch phrases. 

The chair of Maori Television, Georgina te Heuheu, said once the full board of became aware of the screening of the programme, a decision was made then to pull the series.

She says the values of Maori Television include respecting all communities.

"We are a Maori media outlet with our own standards, and a mandate to protect and promote the Maori language and culture," says Mrs te Heuheu.

"This means that 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," Mrs te Heuheu said.

A replacement show Te Taumata Kapahaka will go to air next Thursday evening.

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