Paul Holmes' take on Close Up

CLOSING DOWN: TVNZ is proposing to end Mark Sainsbury's weeknight current affairs show Close Up.
CLOSING DOWN: TVNZ is proposing to end Mark Sainsbury's weeknight current affairs show Close Up.

Former TVNZ broadcasters are unsure what might replace the nightly current affairs show Close Up which may be cut by the end of the year.

The format, first pioneered by Paul Holmes 23 years ago, may be a thing of the past, but TV3 rival Campbell Live is sticking to it.

Yesterday TVNZ announced the proposal to end the Mark Sainsbury-hosted show, with the 16 staff affected going through a consultation period until mid-October.

Sainsbury said he would have preferred the programme, and his role, to continue but was accepting of the broadcaster's decision.

"I'd love to keep going until I drop dead. But lets be real, it is the end of an era," Sainsbury said yesterday after six years with the programme and 31 years at the network.

"They've been looking at the programme for most of the year - we'd made a huge effort - but they want to make changes."

Holmes, who fronted current affairs show Holmes in the post-One News time-slot from 1989 to 2004, said he feared the show had become "light-weight".

"But having said that, we [at Holmes] were always accused of being light-weight as well," he said.

"Mark's made a damn good fist of it."

Two other former TVNZ news and current affairs executives Bill Ralston and Paul Norris said they had fears the current affairs programme might be replaced with an even more light-weight "info-tainment" show designed to draw in larger audiences while neglecting serious analytical stories.

Ralston said a show reformat would likely mean it ends up as "current affairs-lite".

"The only thing I can think of for the new format style is something like Breakfast, but they'll have to call it Dinner I suppose," Ralston said.

TVNZ has declined to elaborate on its plans for Close Up's replacement, saying only that a new daily current affairs show "with a distinctively different format" would appear in the New Year.

Speculation over possible hosts for the new show included the return of polarising broadcaster Paul Henry who was sacked from TVNZ in 2010 and is currently working at Network Ten in Australia.

The executives that fired Henry are no longer at the network, however, he has since struck up an association with TVNZ's main rival MediaWorks.

Henry's Sydney-based personal assistant said he was not willing to comment on the speculation.

MediaWorks TV's head of news and current affairs Mark Jennings said he believed Close Up had been simply outperformed by Campbell Live.

He said there would be no changes to Campbell Live's format, although the show might up it's promotional activity.

Nielsen ratings data showed Close Up had slipped from 8.5 per cent of the 25-54 year-old market in 2010 to 6.6 per cent for the 2012 year-to-date. Campbell Live's ratings had dropped from 6.4 per cent to 5.4 per cent in the same demographic.

While Holmes said the demands of daily news programming were beyond him, he said TVNZ needed to think outside the square.

"Maybe we do need something that's more openly funny and entertaining. In saying that I do not exclude that it will be serious current affairs, even if it's comedy - serious doesn't have to be dour."

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