Patrick Gower clings to hope of rescue, with 250 jobs to go after Newshub closes

7:00 pm on 10 April 2024

Viewers and staff deserve to see some form of Newshub's operations survive, presenter Paddy Gower says.

The 250 people who were losing their jobs were not only his mates, but were good friends of all Kiwis, he said.

At a meeting in Auckland on Wednesday (shared by video link with newsrooms in Wellington and Christchurch), Newshub's owners Warner Bros Discovery confirmed its plan to close all Newshub's operations from July.

"We're losing something amazing today," Gower said afterwards. "250 amazing people doing amazing stuff since 1989."

Gower said the meeting was "low-key" but the key issue was Newshub needed a lifeline.

"We know people that are talking about giving Newshub a lifeline. These people deserve a lifeline. Kiwis deserve Newshub to keep going and the key thing now is the people who are going to look to do these deals get on and get them done and save some of these people and save some news for Kiwis."

He said there was huge value in the company, both commercially and as a news organisation and he appealed to managers to "save something of the magic".

Paddy Gower

Paddy Gower speaks to other journalists after the closure confirmation meeting in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

Another senior journalist, Michael Morrah, was dejected a plan by half a dozen journalists to run a pared-back 6pm news operation had not been accepted.

"We worked extremely hard on the proposal and tried to get as much information and make suitable cutbacks that we thought might pique their interest and we're absolutely gutted that they've decided against accepting our proposal."

Michael Morrah is unhappy a plan to save part of Newshub has been rejected. Photo: RNZ/Nick Monro

Management had told them their proposal would still cause "a downward trajectory" for the business.

He said it was "a very stripped back version" of the 6pm news and it had been "very difficult" thing to share the proposal with staff because of the jobs that would not be saved.

As for any other organisation coming in and trying to salvage a part of Newshub, he was in the dark.

"Whether any deal is struck is unknown ... nor who is in those negotiations."

Mike McRoberts and Sam Hayes Photo: RNZ/Nick Monro

An emotional Newshub 6pm news presenter Mike McRoberts paid tribute both to staff and the viewers outside the meeting.

"We work with some incredible people, amazing teams. I really feel for everyone, past and present, who have given so much for 35 years to the news service.

"I really feel for our audience too. We've got such a great audience, a loyal audience, who I know are going to miss us. I feel sorry for them. I feel sad."

He said viewers had sent emails and cards outlining their regret Newshub was closing.

His co-presenter, Sam Hayes, said it was a sad day and she and her colleagues would need to celebrate all the great work they had done.

Newshub demise blamed on sharp fall in advertising revenue

In a statement Warner Bros Discovery Asia Pacific president James Gibbons said $74 million had disappeared from TV broadcasting expenditure in 2023 - the biggest drop in 30 years outside the year of the Global Financial crisis.

"Every business in its own market has to be financially sustainable, and we simply could not continue in our current form," he said.

Management had listened to a lot of feedback and in the end an extra 10 jobs were being retained.

Newshub meeting where closure is confirmed

The scene at today's meeting in Auckland. Photo: Newshub

Senior vice-president Glen Kyne said having just one TV news operation that was state-owned "would be an ongoing issue".

"But as we noted on the day [when the closure proposal was announced], it is simply impossible to continue operating in our current form."

Three and ThreeNow will continue to operate with a mix of drama, comedy, sport, reality and factual programmes,.

"The new model is how we see Warner Bros Discovery continuing to be a strong and long-term part of the media ecosystem in New Zealand. It will be a smaller operation, but we're confident it will be a viable - and importantly, sustainable - business model in the New Zealand landscape."

Spinoff founder Duncan Greive told RNZ earlier on Wednesday he was struggling to think of another day where there would have been so many job losses in the country's journalism industry.

The announcement came just a day after TVNZ also confirmed job cuts and the end of several news programmes, including iconic consumer affairs show Fair Go.

Newshub, including its news website, will cease on 5 July.

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