Calls for Newshub boycott, after Three axes its Otago reporter

Newshub is closing its Dunedin newsroom, comprising veteran reporter Dave Goosselink and camera operator Grant Findlay.
HAMISH MCNEILLY/Stuff
Newshub is closing its Dunedin newsroom, comprising veteran reporter Dave Goosselink and camera operator Grant Findlay.

Dunedin businessman Ian Taylor is calling for Southland and Otago to boycott Newshub, after it announced the closure of its Otago newsroom.

In a half-page advert in Saturday’s Otago Daily Times, Taylor told Dunedin: “TV3 isn’t listening, so turn them off!”

The Otago newsroom comprised veteran reporter Dave Goosselink and camera operator Grant Findlay. Based in Dunedin, the pair were also responsible for Newshub’s coverage of Southland and Central Otago.

The network had operated an office in Dunedin since the early 1990s and had two reporters covering the area until late 2015. The restructure meant Newshub would have to rely on freelancers or its Christchurch-based bureau to cover the lower South Island. The change would take effect by July.

READ MORE:
* Otago and Southland mayors join MP in support of Dunedin's Newshub office
* Otago Daily Times owner snaps up Clutha Leader
* TVNZ stretched in lower South Island as reporter quits
* Will TVNZ replace Megan Martin after resignation?

A spokeswoman for Three owner, Discovery, said Newshub ”remain committed to regional news”.

“We reject any suggestion that Newshub is turning its back on the Otago and Southland regions,” she said.

Taylor said he decided to take the advert out of concern for the future of New Zealand news if national networks pulled out of more regions.

“We're seeing a diminishing of news around the country and Otago/Southland is just one example. The idea Otago and Southland is no longer worthy of just one reporter, which is way too few, is concerning,” he said.

The businessman, who was made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit this year, has worked in television for almost 50 years. He started on Play School, and founded graphics company Animation Research. His company works globally, including on contracts with the PGA and America’s Cup.

With no reporters in Dunedin, he said Newshub’s coverage was likely to become reactive to breaking news – as it became further disconnected from the deep south.

Sir Ian Taylor is threatening a boycott of Newshub, unless it keeps its Otago reporter.
Quentin Bedwell iStudios Multime/Photo
Sir Ian Taylor is threatening a boycott of Newshub, unless it keeps its Otago reporter.

Taylor said he hoped the rest of Otago and Southland would share his concern, and switch off Newshub.

“Maybe people won’t care, and I’ll be left with egg on my face,” he said.

“If people don't care, then TV3 is quite right to do this.”

He said a boycott from Southland and Otago would show that it made commercial sense for Discovery to have a permanent reporting presence in the south.

“If it's not cost-effective, that's fine, but drop the advertising rate. This is one reporter and one office covering all of Otago, Southland. If you can't afford that, and if that is the real reason, then what is the role of broadcast television now?”

TVNZ has one reporter working in Dunedin, alongside two camera operators. Stuff has two reporters in Dunedin, as well as newsrooms in Central Otago, Southland and Timaru. Radio New Zealand has two Otago reporters.

In September, United States television company Discovery bought MediaWorks’ television arm, which included Newshub and channels Three and Bravo.

Many in Otago have rallied behind Goosselink and Findlay since Discovery confirmed its plan on May 13. A petition to save the newsroom had more than 2000 signatures.

Dunedin mayor Aaron Hawkins started the petition. He said the closure of Newshub’s southern-most newsroom showed “the map of New Zealand at Newshub now ends at Christchurch”.