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Michael Morrah reports from outside Three’s Auckland offices during last night’s 6pm news on Newshub.
Michael Morrah reports from outside Three’s Auckland offices during last night’s 6pm news on Newshub.

The BulletinFebruary 29, 2024

The pointy political questions after yesterday’s breaking news about breaking news

Michael Morrah reports from outside Three’s Auckland offices during last night’s 6pm news on Newshub.
Michael Morrah reports from outside Three’s Auckland offices during last night’s 6pm news on Newshub.

One journalist described the ‘what next’ questions after yesterday’s news about Newshub as ‘a nightmare dilemma for the government’, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

Reporting news about the news

We don’t often lead The Bulletin with media stories. We’re often too deep in our own weeds, the job is to first and foremost think about the reader, and as Duncan Greive writes in an overview of the last 14 very difficult months for the industry, we are “inherently conflicted” when covering our own operations. It is equally rare to see media stories lead the 6pm news, doubly so when a competitor leads with a story about its rival and, as The Spinoff’s Tara Ward brilliantly captures after watching last night’s news on Newshub, “Spiderman pointing meme” levels of meta when the news being reported by the news team is that the news, specifically their news, got cancelled.

Not just the news, but local programming

Yesterday’s announcement that Newshub, one of the big media companies in New Zealand, is proposing to close its newsroom on June 30 is objectively shocking, and the ramifications are many. After years of observing an industry visibly shrinking, yesterday was the equivalent of an entire leg being lopped off. The proposal doesn’t just extend to news programming; it’s local programming as well. Speaking to the Herald’s Shayne Currie yesterday (paywalled), Newshub and Warner Bros. Discovery boss Glen Kyne confirmed that while shows like Married at First Sight New Zealand and The Block New Zealand are all safe for this season, any future local productions will likely need co-production or funding partners to proceed. Hal Crawford, former news director of Newshub, explained the symbiotic relationship between news programming and everything else on a channel like Three on The Spinoff yesterday. Along with the loss of news and local programming on screen, hundreds of jobs are expected to go. The Newshub website, which surely must be considered a nationally significant archive, is also set to go. All that work done by many over the years will likely be gone. To me, that’s like losing an entire wing of a library.

More analysis:

Duncan Greive: Today marks the shocking end of Three as we knew it – here’s what that really means. Greive also recorded a reaction pod for The Fold after yesterday’s news.

Mark JenningsA plan to rescue Newshub – on a beer budget 

Greg Treadwell: With the end of Newshub, the slippery slope just got steeper for NZ journalism and democracy

‘A nightmare dilemma for the government’

Everyone from the prime minister to the Reserve Bank governor was asked to comment on the news. Our politicians cited it as “bad for our democracy” and a “sad day”. The Post’s Luke Malpass, describes new broadcasting minister Melissa Lee as having made a name for herself as being “consistently ambivalent about the government’s role in the situation the industry now finds itself”. Lee expressed empathy for those impacted but said she didn’t have concerns about media plurality. Former broadcasting minister Willie Jackson questioned Lee’s commitment to finding a solution. Finance minister Nicola Willis reminded the hundreds of people facing job losses that we have a welfare system and that they should back themselves. Deputy prime minister Winston Peters framed it as a disaster for the staff and New Zealand. Act’s David Seymour said while the government would not buy out Newshub, he had requested advice on whether government-owned TVNZ should start returning a dividend to help level the playing field. Malpass suggests more political pressure is coming for the government. BusinessDesk’s Daniel Dunkley writes (paywalled), “Politically, it seems like a nightmare dilemma for the government. Allow an important pillar of democracy to go to the wall, see hundreds lose their jobs and let US tech firms off scot-free, or give the news publishers a helping hand and unleash criticism for doing so.”

Three’s 6pm news bulletins through the years (Image: Tina Tiller)

One of The Bulletin’s noble purposes is to curate and uplift the work of all who work to produce the news in Aotearoa. For now, I just want to acknowledge all at Newshub. It’s cold comfort, but thank you. To end, Alex Casey has done a sterling job of cataloguing the history of the “charismatic, colourful and sometimes unconventional” 6pm news on TV3.

Keep going!