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PETER WILLIAMS: RIP Newshub

Could anything have saved it?


The real surprise is not that Newshub is going under but that it’s lasted this long.


TV 3 started broadcasting in November 1989, almost 35 years ago. It was a different era. There was no Sky, no digital platforms and the new kid on the block was going head to head with TVNZ. News was a major battleground.


But the company was in receivership within months, the news ratings were terrible from the start and seldom matched TVNZ in the ensuing years.


Under its various incarnations (Three News, 3 News  and then Newshub) it’s had some good periods. But the sad reality is that in nearly three and a half decades the number of days when it’s flagship 6pm show outrated 1 News in total audience (those aged five and over) could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand, and certainly two.


Their big nights were usually after blockbuster events such as the Lennox Lewis-David Tua world championship bout in 2000.


TV 3’s 6pm show often did well in key demographics such as 18-49 and 25-54, success which for a time would have edged the news operation towards washing its face.

That’s not to say Newshub has delivered a poor product. On the contrary, it’s often been a sharper, crisper presentation with classier graphics and, especially in recent years, a more functional set and far better groomed presenters and reporters.


There can be no denying the talent that has been nurtured and flowered over the years too.


Ironically they started badly with a retreaded Philip Sherry, a newsreader with a TV pedigree going back to the 1960s. It was an ill-advised move for a brash new operator in the late 1980s.


But they recovered from that early blunder and the likes of John Hawkesby, Carol Hirschfeld, John Campbell, Hilary Barry, Mike McRoberts and Samantha Hayes deserved better audiences for their talents.


TV3 as a separate entity has seldom been profitable. It would seem only for a brief period under Canadian company Canwest’s management and subsequent ownership from 1991 to 2007 that operations were in the black.


Canwest sold out to private equity for $386 million in 2007 and things were never the same afterwards. There was another receivership in 2013 and the company, by now called Mediaworks, was for some time only kept afloat by the success of its music radio stations.


Mediaworks sold the television operation to Discovery in late 2020 but even the expertise and the deep pockets of the American media giant, who in turn merged with Warner Brothers, could not keep the company’s head above water.


Newshub remained a major cost centre and when the parent company reported a loss in excess of $32 million last year, the writing was on the wall.


Much commentary on the day of Newshub’s demise talked of how it’s sad a liberal democratic nation like New Zealand is losing a media voice and that the  landscape will be the poorer for it.


But it won’t really. The reality is that Newshub, like every other mainstream media outlet, was not a truly independent voice. It was in lockstep with every other MSM outlet on the significant matters of our time – treaty issues, climate and covid. It didn’t offer any alternative views. It’s political coverage, especially since the election, has regularly - like 1 News – presented anti-government views on policies the coalition parties campaigned on and were elected on.


As Newshub wobbled towards its demise was there ever any thought given to changing the editorial stance? Was there ever any eye turned towards the success of right-leaning networks in the US, Australia and Britain?


I doubt it very much. The leadership in recent times has been dominated by women for whom a challenge to the prevailing narrative of the Jacinda years would have been a step too far.


But the success of more right-leaning media outlets such as Newstalk ZB and to a certain extent The Platform suggest there may have been some fertile ground to till.


It’s too late now. In this economic climate, and with the era of free to air television coming to an end, New Zealand will be down one MSM news outlet just after the winter solstice.


The chances of something taking its place in a form we’re familiar with are next to zero. Newshub may not be the only casualty of the media scene this year either – here’s looking at you Stuff – but in reality it’s neither a surprise nor particularly troublesome.


Yes it’s sad for those who work there and they will struggle to find another job in a rapidly condensing media industry. There might not be that many cosy “government relations” or “communications” roles for them to go to either.


We have too many media outlets in this country. Modern technology makes it easy to get up and running. Heaven forbid, any old hack can distribute his rantings everywhere through this marvelous thing called Substack!


Broadcast news in New Zealand  is a relatively young industry. Regular radio bulletins only began in 1962 and networked TV news seven years later.


But it’s an industry which has seen its heyday.


There will always be an appetite for news and commentary but the end of Newshub signals that in a not too distant future the way we impart and receive that content will be much different to what we’ve been used to for the last 65 years.


Writer and broadcaster for half a century. Now watching from the sidelines. Subscribe to Peter William's Substack here

5,108 views108 comments

108 Comments


winder44
winder44
Mar 01

Same goes for TVNZ cricket. Some part-maori roving reporter waffling a load of crap far too frequently during the over breaks. .

Can we just concentrate on the game?

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Based on the TV3 6pm news I’m not surprised they folded.

I hardly ever watched it, partly due to the similarity to TV1 news, and partly due to having the two talking heads treat viewers like idiots by uttering a few sentences each.

Do you think people’s attention spans are that low they need a different muppet to speak every few sentences?

Also as others have said, it’s the utter contempt of the intelligence of the viewers who didn’t vote woke at the last election.

I hope TVNZ are next.


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zekewulfe
zekewulfe
Feb 29

Whilst Kiwis struggle for survival in a turmoil much of their own making....

Take a look at some real world alternatives..... others in a struggle for survival


https://www.timesofisrael.com/dozens-of-gazans-said-killed-in-stampede-for-aid-idf-opens-fire-blamed-for-deaths/


Little blame there..... just the facts.


I would lay 10 to one the News services in NZ are absent when it comes to displaying this down to earth style of....... diversification! and deliverance.

They would not know the true meaning of the words; let alone practice them.


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Yep, the advertisers left in response to the drop in viewers who went elsewhere for news and analysis to platforms such as https://rumble.com/search/all?q=redacted and https://realitycheck.radio/


These mainstream media misinformation-spreaders have caused enormous harm to our democracy and the health of our people. They deserve nothing but our utter and deepest contempt. The truth is Newshub dug its own grave, then shot itself in the head. I'll happily shovel in the soil.

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Replying to

I'll dance on it afterwards.

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Absolutely no insight from MSM people. The headlines on my tablet with all the wailing and moaning from an industry that engineered its own demise. It is pretty clear that, despite the fact we have entered a new digital age, most on BBH would have been supportive of both TV1 and TV3 if they had not had to endure 5-7 years of dumbing down, unadulterated rubbish and political propaganda. New Zealanders don't want their compatriots to fail.

However, no, they simply can't help themselves. Self-pitying Aotearoans. They are still calling it "A failure of democracy in Aotearoa!".

Let's hope the government listen to those who voted for them and not a handful of failed "puppets on a string" controlled by…

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Macademia
Macademia
Mar 01
Replying to

See the latest news! There was a suggestion from Newshub bosses a week ago that they could join together with TVNZ and RNZ as one news agency, but this was rejected by TVNZ. And so it should be as TVNZ is state funded and why should Newshub get a free ride? They've gotten millions already in PIJF money!

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