Former TVNZ news and current affairs boss Bill Ralston
says scrapping Close Up
would be "a disaster" for news
The top-rating TV One current affairs show is set to be axed
by the end of the year, with a "fresh" show tipped to replace
A press release issued this morning said TVNZ was "proposing"
to wind down Close Up, which has been hosted by Mark
Sainsbury in TV One's 7pm slot since 2006.
Sainsbury sent out this tweet via his account @SAINSO about
the cancellation: "Picked a bad week to give up smoking! Yes
change is in the air whole new show next year the talented
bunch I work with can make it happen."
Sainsbury also told Newstalk ZB's Danny Watson that all he
knew was they wanted to try something knew.
"Got plans to revitalise it, they'll look at different ways
of doing things. I'm not part of those plans and I wish them
well in what they're going to do."
Mr Sainsbury said he will be spending more time in
Wellington, as he has been commuting from there to Auckland
for the past six years.
Ralston, a longtime friend of Sainsbury, predicted Close
Up would be replaced by a soft magazine style show "more
Telegenic TV host Pippa Wetzell has been tipped for a bigger
role in TVNZ.
Ralston also suggested TVNZ bring back New York news
correspondent Jack Tame to front the new show. A media
industry source said New Zealand's Got Talent host
Tamati Coffey has also been mentioned in dispatches.
Ralston said TVNZ's proposed "re-formatting" of the show
meant there would no longer be an attempt at serious current
Ralston said the changes marked a culture in TVNZ management
that objected to the significant budgets for news and current
affairs and the costs of securing ratings.
The demise of Sainsbury's Close Up has been debated
One view of events suggested to the Herald was that head of
news and current affairs Ross Dagan had accepted the need for
change to the weeknight format, which harks back to the days
Dagan said the proposed changes were being made as a response
to viewer feedback.
"Close Up remains the number one daily current affairs
show by a substantial margin, but ratings for us and for our
competitors in this important time slot have diminished over
time," he said.
"We're committed to staying at the forefront of what New
Zealanders want to see and we owe it to them and to ourselves
to continually evolve and enhance television current affairs.
"We want to reinvent the early evening slot, to present the
stories of the day in a way that is very different to what
has gone before."
A Facebook post by TVNZ asked viewers what kind of current
affairs show they'd like to see in the 7pm slot. The first
reply suggested, "One with Paul Henry in it," while the
second said, "One without Mark Sainsbury".
Dagan said Close Up's format had "run its course".
"Everyone on the show is aware that traditional current
affairs formats are losing favour with audiences, and this
team has set the bar for what's possible. However despite the
efforts of a group of very talented people, and a degree of
success, the company's view is that this format has simply
run its course.
He praised Sainsbury's performance over the past few years.
"As presenter Mark Sainsbury has done a fine job and has
earned a deserved place in television history through his
coverage of some of the most significant issues in New
Zealand's recent past."
Close Up has been running for nearly eight years and
runs in direct competition to TV3's Campbell Live.
Last night's episode was the fourth most-watched show on TV
with 474,000 viewers, Throng.co.nz reported. Campbell
Live had 283,210 viewers.
Details about the proposed revamp weren't released, but staff
were being consulted with an outcome due in mid-October.
- additional reporting nzherald.co.nz