Government turned down request for help from struggling publisher Bauer Media

Some of New Zealand's most loved magazines, including The Listener, Next, Metro and Women's Day have become the latest casualty of COVID-19 with news publisher Bauer Media folded, effective immediately.

But Newshub can reveal the Government turned down a last ditch Hail Mary request by Bauer Media to throw the business a lifeline. 

The publisher's closure - announced on Thursday - means 237 full time staff will lose their jobs and with contractors it'll be much higher.

"It's just unimaginable...  I don't think there's ever been an event like this in terms of the scale of it," said journalist and managing editor of The Spinoff, Duncan Greive.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday she was "extremely disappointed and frankly gutted to see what has been part of New Zealand history close its doors fairly abruptly today".

But media commentator and The Listener writer Bill Ralston blames the Government for making magazines non-essential. 

He described it as a "dumb and stupid move". 

Bauer Media Group is also blaming the Government and its COVID-19 response.

In a statement, Bauer Media CEO Brendon Hill said: "We understand the Government's decision to move to Level 4, but it has put our business in an untenable position.

"Publishing's dependent on advertising revenue and it is highly unlikely that demand will ever return to pre-crisis levels."

"This is a devastating blow for our committed and talented team."

The Prime Minister has shot back, saying: "I just reject any suggestion that COVID-19 and our response to it has caused them to shut their printing press, but I deeply regret that they have."

Bauer is a German mega-multinational. But with its ad revenue flat-lining, it didn't believe the Government's wage subsidies could save its New Zealand titles.

"Bauer contacted the [Finance Minister] and told them they weren't interested in subsidies," Ardern said.

"They didn't enter a conversation about becoming an essential service, they didn't seek to continue to operate during lockdown, and they didn't want to use the Government support to keep their doors open."

But Newshub can reveal Bauer asked the Government to bail it out - to buy its magazines and to save jobs as a last minute lifeline, for bottom-dollar.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government doesn't want to "own all the media".

He said on Thursday what the Government has to do is "make sure that as part of our recovery packages there is something that supports different voices in the media".

But COVID-19 is choking those critical voices.

Newshub's owner MediaWorks has asked staff to take a 15 percent pay cut in its fight to survive, while Stuff has been forced to lay off some contributing writers.

NZME - owner of the New Zealand Herald and Newstalk ZB - has asked staff to take voluntary redundancies and use leave.

"Huge loans or bailouts will be necessary, otherwise we'll be having this conversation again in a matter of weeks," Greive told Newshub. 

Without the huge loan or bailout, in Bauer's case, it's now desperately trying to sell off each of its magazine titles. 

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