Media company NZME has closed its Radio Sport radio station with immediate effect.
The company is believed to be in talks with staff about significant redundancies as the coronavirus lockdown takes a bite out of advertising sales.
NZME publishes the New Zealand Herald and owns about half the country’s commercial radio stations, including Radio Sport, which is now a confirmed casualty and stopped broadcasts at 1pm.
“NZME has been working hard to avoid this but the reality of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis is that these decisions have to be made,” it said.
NZME spokesman Cliff Joiner would not comment on redundancies, including on whether there were consultations taking place about redundancies in other parts of the business.
But he pointed to an NZME media report which quoted chief executive Michael Boggs saying that “alongside the Radio Sport team, we are talking to our sport editorial staff in Auckland and across our regions about a proposed restructure”.
All sectors of the advertising market have been severely impacted as businesses cut back on their marketing during the lockdown.
But industry sources said radio advertising was suffering disproportionately.
Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher said last week that its audience had been at record highs, driven by the public need for information and analysis around the Covid-19 situation, and she could see that was mirrored across other publishers.
“But news publishers in New Zealand are largely dependent on advertising revenue and there has been an impact on advertising as a knock-on from the disruption that key industries such as travel are experiencing,” she said.
Smaller media firms are also being impacted.
Glenn Smith, managing director of Radio Bay of Plenty in Whakatane, said on Friday that it would normally expect $140,000 to $150,000 of revenue in April, “but right now, it’s $74,000 and falling” and May looks even worse”.
The Free Speech Coalition has meanwhile announced it will seek a judicial review of a decision by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage not to classify community newspapers and periodicals other than daily newspapers as “essential”.
“Weekly and monthly publications like North and South, The Listener, and ethnic newspapers serve a vital role in the community’s conscience and holding our leaders to account,” spokesman Jordan Williams said.