NZ media people react with ‘shock’ over plan to close Newshub in June

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The news about New Zealand's Newshub newsroom facing closure
The news about New Zealand's Newshub newsroom facing closure as reported by the major network today. Image: Newshub screenshot APR

Pacific Media Watch

Newshub, one of the key media companies in Aotearoa New Zealand, is to close its newsroom on June 30, reports RNZ News.

Staff were told of the closure plan at an emergency meeting today.

Newshub is owned by US-based global entertainment giant Warner Bros Discovery which also owns Eden, Rush, HGTV and Bravo.

In 2020, it took over the New Zealand channel’s assets which had been then part of Mediaworks.

Staff were called to a meeting at Newshub at 11am, RNZ News reported on its live news feed.

They were told that the US conglomerate Warner Brothers Discovery, owners of Newshub, was commencing consultation on a restructuring of its free-to-air business

This included the closure of all news operations by its Newshub operation

All local programming would be made only through local funding bodies and partners.

James Gibbons, president of Asia Pacific for Warner Bros Discovery, said it was a combination of negative events in NZ and around the world. The economic downturn had been severe and there was no long hope for a bounce back

Staff leave the Newshub office in Auckland today
Staff leave the Newshub office in Auckland today after the meeting about the company’s future. Image: RNZ/Rayssa Almeida

Revenue has ‘disappeared quickly’
“Advertising revenue in New Zealand has disappeared far more quickly than our ability to manage this reduction, and to drive the business to profitability,” he said.

He said the restructuring would focus on it being a digital business

ThreeNow, its digital platform, would be the focus and could run local shows

All news production would stop on June 30.

The consultation process runs until mid-March. A final decision is expected early April.

“Deeply shocked’
Interviewed on RNZ’s Nine to Noon programme, a former head of Newshub, Mark Jennings, said he was deeply shocked by the move.

Other media personalities also reacted with stunned disbelief. Rival TVNZ’s Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver said: “Thinking of my friends and colleagues from Newshub.

“So many super talented wonderful people. Its a terrible day for our industry that Newshub [will] close by June, we will be all the much poorer for it. Much aroha to you all.”

TVNZ Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver reacts
TVNZ Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver reacts to news about the plan to close Newshub’s newsroom. Image: Barbara Dreaver/FB

Newshub has broken some important Pacific stories over the years.

Jennings told RNZ a cut back and trimming of shows would have been expected — but not on this scale.

“I’m really deeply frankly shocked by it,” said Jennings, now co-founder and editor of Newsroom independent digital media group.

He said he expected all shows to go, including AM Show and investigative journalist Patrick Gower’s show.

Company ‘had no strategy’
“I think governments will be pretty upset and annoyed about this, to be honest.”

“Unless they have been kept in the loop because we’re going to see a major drop in diversity.

“Newshub’s newsroom has been, maybe not so much in recent times, but certainly in the past, a very strong and vibrant player in the market and very important one for this country and again as [RNZ Mediawatch presenter] Colin [Peacock] points out, who is going to keep TVNZ’s news honest now?

“I think this is a major blow to media diversity in this country.”

“First of all, Discovery and then Warner Bros Discovery, this has been an absolute shocker of entry to this market by them. They came in with what I could was . . . no, I couldn’t see a strategy in it and in the time they owned this company, there has been no strategy and that’s really disappointing.

“If this had gone to a better owner, they would have taken steps way sooner and maybe we wouldn’t be losing one of the country’s most valued news services.”

Loss of $100m over three years
Jennings said his understanding was the company had lost $100 million in the past three years, which was “really significant”.

“I wonder if it had been a New Zealand owner, whether the government might have taken a different view around this, but I guess because it’s owned by a huge American, multi-national conglomerate, they would’ve been reluctant to intervene in any way.”

He said Media and Communications Minister Melissa Lee, a former journalist who ran the Asia Down Under programme for many years, faced serious questions now.

“It’ll be her first big test really, I guess, in that portfolio.”

It is believed that the plan could impact on more than 200 jobs.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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