Andrew Holden is the director of public affairs for the News Publishers’ Association, which represents large and small publishers across New Zealand.

OPINION: Mark down 28 February, 2024, as a very bad day for New Zealand journalism, the day we learned that Newshub – the newsroom that delivers the 6pm bulletin on TV3, AM at breakfast and a plethora of other news programmes, as well as its news website – is to close.

More than 200 people are to lose their jobs, including many of our best-known and respected journalists.

It should come as no surprise that our media industry is in trouble. Just two weeks ago, most of New Zealand’s media companies fronted a parliamentary Select Committee to explain that reality, among them Newshub’s owner, Warner Bros. Discovery.

In that specific case, it was to argue in favour of the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill, which would deal with a broken advertising market in New Zealand, whereby the lion’s share of this revenue now goes to big tech companies like Google and Meta, which owns Facebook.

The Bill, similar to legislation now active in Australia and Canada, would require those big tech companies to sit down and negotiate with New Zealand’s media companies, to pay them for using their news content.

That’s not to say this legislation is a magic wand that will fix all the financial pressures on our industry – whatever extra revenue might have gone to Warner Bros. Discovery doesn’t necessarily mean that Newshub would have continued in its present form.

Television is the most expensive form of news, and the rise of on-demand and streaming mean that free-to-air television is under severe pressure.

Still, Newshub and our other media companies have invested heavily in digital innovation to meet those kinds of challenges, yet they are doing so in an unfair marketplace without the necessary Government regulation.

The majority of digital revenue has been diverted by global tech platforms, some of whom have no interest in investing in New Zealand journalism and all of whom employ zero journalists.

Yesterday’s announcement should leave no-one in any doubt – to do nothing to address the imbalance in our advertising market means we can expect more sad days to come.

What this means is that all New Zealand loses. Our media are part of the fabric of our community, telling our stories in wonderfully diverse ways.

And competition is vital to journalism, as it is to many human endeavours. It is the antidote to complacency, to just covering the basics or not bothering to make another call to make sure you’ve got the story right.

It doesn’t matter if you rarely or never watched TV3 news, if you preferred Jessica to Tova during Covid times. Both of those excellent journalists will tell you that they worked harder, and did better stories, because they knew the other was there.

Competition also means newsrooms have to innovate, to figure out ways to interest new viewers or readers. From that comes Paddy Gower Has Issues, the distinctive style of Campbell Live and other great programmes.

Because of this, no-one at TVNZ or any other media company will be “celebrating”, there’s no “winner” in this contest. It’s just terribly, terribly sad.