The sad end of John Campbell


John Campbell is leaving TV3, with Mediaworks replacing Campbell Live with a relaunched current affairs show four nights a week.


With cynical timing MediaWorks lowered the boom on John Campbell effectively giving him his marching orders at the same time as the Budget came out.

Obviously hoping the axing of Campbell Live  would be eclipsed by Bill English's Thursday afternoon Budget, MediaWorks announced the decision when the focus was elsewhere. But the news hit hard. Elvis had left the building, and a four-day-a-week show with two co-presenters would replace him.

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He was offered a co-host position, but Campbell said no. Who can blame the host who has been at the helm for more than a decade? It would have been too humiliating to stay on in a show that previously bore your name on it, the Campbell brand having stood for something as it fought for the underdog and took on a Government that over the last few years consistently turned down numerous invitations to appear on the show to battle it out with the passionate host.

Recent moves by MediaWorks to become the emperors of reality TV meant that Campbell Live became a strange fit for them.
Michael Bradley/ Fairfax NZ

Recent moves by MediaWorks to become the emperors of reality TV meant that Campbell Live became a strange fit for them.

Six weeks ago, when the axing of the show was first raised, fans rushed to its aid, parking bums on seats and demonstrating their loyalty as the ratings started to top the 6pm news bulletin. But the writing was on the wall as the show was rumoured to be too pink in its persuasion by friends of John Key, high up in the echelons of MediaWorks.

The review was led by TV3's current affairs boss, Mark Jennings. Senior management were unanimous in the decision to side-line Campbell. By opting for co-hosts - the search having already started for fresh presenters - it indicates the new format may try and give Seven Sharp (and its signature blathering, banter and editorialising by their boy-girl presenter line-up) a run for its money.

Campbell's passion for the job can never be doubted, as he crusaded for so many causes and issues that faced everyday New Zealanders; kids' lunches in school, child poverty, changing the drink-driving laws, raising money for the victims of natural disasters, and tirelessly battling away for the quake-affected in Christchurch.

MediaWorks, having recently gone all out on the multimedia Paul Henry show that is failing to gain traction, has ditched a household name and angered Campbell Live's loyal fan base who won't take this lying down.

Ten years ago, Campbell Live entered the scene as a compassionate, deeper thinking alternative to TVNZ's more staid current affairs and stood its ground. Recent moves by MediaWorks to become the emperors of reality TV meant that Campbell Live became a strange fit for them.

What is sad is that the host leaves without a well-deserved, decent send off for his services to the nation.

Some found his over-the-top sincerity irksome, but he could not have retained that front for a decade without it being the real deal. No doubt he will resurface elsewhere. If I was Kathryn Ryan, I would be very afraid.

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