Radio Sport taken off air indefinitely

6:09 pm on 30 March 2020

Radio Sport has been taken off air indefinitely with its frequencies now carrying Newstalk ZB programming.

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Photo: 123 RF

The sports radio station went off air at 1pm today.

In a statement on the Radio Sport website, NZME said it had made the "incredibly difficult decision" to stop broadcasting.

"With the cancellation and suspension of virtually all local, national and international events and competitions, NZME has been forced to look closely at the level of sports coverage, including live events across all platforms."

NZME said it had been working hard to avoid the closure but the "reality of the impact" of the virus was that the decision had to be made.

Jim Kayes, a semi-regular host of a weekend programme on the station, said he felt for the many hard-working and experienced sports journalists whose jobs were now on the line.

''For me as a freelancer it is less of a blow but for some of those people it is a huge blow.''

He also thought it was a significant blow for sport.

"There are a lot of sports, big and small that get a lot of coverage from Radio Sport and I just wonder if those sports know what they have had in the past and they are certainly going to know now that Radio Sport is going to be missing.''

He said there has been a lot of promotion for sport on the station.

"A lot of debate, discussion and passion around a variety of sports and that is driven by Radio Sport.''

Kayes said that as an optimist, he hoped the station would come back.

It was believed Radio Sport had about 25 fulltime staff and some casuals.

Radio Sport began as Sports Roundup, on Radio New Zealand during the 1980s and early 1990s providing live commentary of summer sports like cricket.

It became a dedicated sports network following privatisation in 1996 when RNZ's commercial and non-commercial services were split.

Former editor weighs in

Freelance sports journalist Rikki Swannell, a former Radio Sport editor, said it would be a huge loss for many sport fans.

She said young people who want to specialise in sport either as a journalist or a commentator would have listened to Radio Sport.

''As a radio station, it has produced a generation of hugely talented sports broadcasters.''

It was a tough time for the media industry as a whole, Swannell said.

''I think we are seeing how tough it is for sport in general as well and those two things combining makes it very challenging and very frightening.''

She said sport still played a part on Newstalk ZB but she was hopeful a dedicated sports station would return.

''It may come back in a different shape, a different form, but as we know sports rights are very expensive for media companies to be buying and so that may mean for a sports radio station that is just not viable anymore.

''I am hopeful but that may just be being optimistic."