Today FM abruptly axed, new station to launch on same frequency in April

Talkback radio station Today FM is no more and a new station will be taking over the frequency in April, MediaWorks has announced.

At 5.13pm, a promo on the station told listeners some planned upcoming programming will still be broadcast on the frequency, but the station no longer existed.

"This station is no longer Today FM," an announcement said, before adding: "In April, a new station will be launching on this frequency."

No further details were given and the station returned to playing classic hits music after the brief announcement.

'Don't Stop (thinking about tomorrow)' by Fleetwood Mac was the last song played before the announcement. In the run up to it, the playlist also included 'Beautiful Day' by U2, 'Heard It Through the Grapevine' by Marvin Gaye and 'Breathless' by the Corrs.

A Facebook post from Today FM
Today FM's digital head posted an update prior to the announcement but it was subsequently deleted. Photo credit: Facebook / Today FM

MediaWorks interim CEO Wendy Palmer said the company has been impacted by an environment with lower revenues and higher costs. 

"At the request of the MediaWorks Board we have undertaken a review of the entire business to identify further areas of potential cost saving and to reshape the business for the market conditions," Palmer said.

"This has led the Board to take the difficult decision to take Today FM off air and to explore options for a digital content offering."

Palmer said they will be working with the Today FM team to identify other opportunities within MediaWorks where possible and will support them in their next steps.

"This is a hard day for this talented team who put everything into building a new talk platform in Aotearoa. They've worked tremendously hard and we're incredibly proud of the work they have done.

"We'd also like to thank everyone who supported Today FM over the last year, from our regular contributors, to our advertisers and especially our listeners. From Ardern to Zelensky, we've kept Kiwis informed with the very best of news and current affairs and we're grateful to everyone who tuned in."

Prior to the announcement, a post said to be from Today FM's digital head was posted on the station's Facebook page telling its followers they were "robbed".

"What a ride. We want to thank every single one of you for being with us this past year," the post said.

"As I type this, David, Duncan Garner's producer is crying in my arms as the harsh reality of cold corporate decisions set in.

"Like David, many of our team feel like they have failed you. But, I can confidently say that they have done something like no one else has in the media space.

"We were robbed. You were robbed.

"I wanted to let you all know that every single person here, whose eyes are red and sore, only wanted to do the best they could.

"Love us or hate us, we fought for you and your stories.

"Thank you all for your kind comments and shared grief in what we believe has been a significant short sighted decision by MediaWorks.

"From Rachel, Tova, Duncan, Leah & Mark, Lloyd, Polly, and everyone else at Today FM - thank you. Keep moving forward."

Just after 5.07pm, the Facebook post was deleted and the station's Twitter account was changed from public facing to protected.

On Thursday morning, the station cut to playing music rather than its usual programming with host Duncan Garner, following his and fellow host Tova O'Brien emotionally informing viewers they were likely about to lose their jobs.

It was then revealed a staff meeting was to take place at 9.30am, during which employees were told there was a proposal by the MediaWorks board to shut down Today FM.

The station has been on air for just over a year following its launch on March 21, 2022. However, it has been rocked by the resignations of MediaWorks CEO Cam Wallace and its director of talk Dallas Gurney in the past few weeks.

In audio of Thursday's staff meeting obtained by Newshub, MediaWorks Interim CEO Wendy Palmer was heard saying the MediaWorks "board were clear we needed to find significant savings".

Earlier, O'Brien had announced live on-air: "We haven't been given a chance. We've been on air for just a year.

"We were told that we had the support of everyone from the chief executive through to the board, through to the executive and they have f**ked us and we're all gonna lose our jobs and the station is coming off air and as of as of today."

"This is betrayal," Garner said.

Staff had been given until the end of Thursday afternoon to provide submissions on the proposal. Newshub approached MediaWorks for comment on the duration of the consultation process and the next steps once it had been received, but at the time of publishing, there was no clear indication of timeframes.

Mid-morning on Thursday, a post on Today FM's website read: "A full update on Today FM will be announced at 5pm."

In the audio obtained by Newshub of the staff meeting, Palmer gave assurances that she had tried to save the station, and discussions were held recently about delaying any decision.

"I give you my absolute assurance that I sat through meetings with the board last Wednesday, Wednesday before and absolutely, particularly last Wednesday, spoke extremely strongly against this and asked for more time."

Palmer was asked if the plan by the board was to sell MediaWorks and replied: "I guess that'll be the plan... I mean, if they're not here forever, right, I mean, they've come in to buy an asset and then sell it."