Broadcasting Minister Melissa Lee clarifies she misspoke when saying Warner Bros. Discovery didn't ask for assistance

The Deputy Prime Minister has described Newshub's closure as an absolute disaster for New Zealand's democracy.  

The move means the state-owned TVNZ will be the only television news station, but the Prime Minister confirmed on Wednesday that Government intervention is unlikely.  

For decades, when disaster strikes or the clock hits 6pm, Kiwis have had a choice about who to turn to, and who to turn on.  

But very soon there will be only one.  

"Should the proposal should go ahead, the only video news broadcast project is going to be state-owned. I think this is all going to be significantly debated. I don't think there is any bigger event in journalism," said Glen Kyne, Senior Vice President and Head of Networks at Warner Bros Discovery Australia, New Zealand, Japan.  

Newshub's closure will leave TVNZ with a monopoly of mediums.   

Asked what it will mean for the state of the fourth estate and democracy, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said: "The reality is that consumers are consuming their news and their media in lots of different channels and through lots of different multi-media outlets".  

"We have a plurality of media voices in New Zealand. That will continue."  

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters called it "absolute disaster".  

"Well frankly for those 300 or so staff and their spouses and their families, this is an absolute disaster. It is also a disaster for this country's democracy."  

New Zealand First – arguably the party that is the media's biggest critic – became its advocate.  

"A critical part of any democracy and free society is the fourth estate and an independent fourth state, and I am concerned about where we are going now," said Peters.  

The Broadcasting Minister though seemed less concerned.  

Asked if she was concerned about there being only one choice for television news in New Zealand, Melissa Lee mentioned there was a Sky as an option and "a whole lot of other media about".    

A Government bailout seems off the cards.  

"It's highly unlikely, because as I've said before there's been massive changes in consumer habits and how news is being consumed," said Luxon.   

Since its beginning, Newshub and 3 News has fought for its life, and long asked the Government for help.  

"It was a priority, we didn't get to it. In the end, it would have been good if we would have settled that," said former Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson.   

Media commentator and former Head of News at TV3 Mark Jennings said there are support mechanisms.  

"Nearly every country internationally, democracy, supports its media," he said.  

Kyne said there will be a national debate now about the role of media in New Zealand and journalism as well as what the policy settings need to be "so there aren't ongoing events such as this".   

The Associate Finance Minister responsible for Crown-owned entity companies, David Seymour, has asked for advice about what role TVNZ played in Newshub's demise.   

"I don't think it's helpful for the Government to try and run two TV stations but it should be ensuring there's a level playing field," he said.   

He said Wednesday's news could mean a shakeup.  

"It may well mean that they have to make a return on equity, just like every other business in New Zealand is required to do."  

It's not just Newshub that has been struggling to survive, it's been all media.  

Their latest hopes are pinned on a proposed Bill to make internet and social media giants pay for the news they use.  

"Our ability to continue to do this work is in grave peril. Journalism is in its fight for its life against the most powerful and profitable companies that have ever existed," said Sinead Boucher, the owner of Stuff.  

Jackson said that Bill is "really important".   

The Government has been lukewarm on the idea. And continues to be.  

Lee said she spoke with Kyne on Tuesday night and he told her "that would have not made a single bit of difference".   

"Warner Brothers Discovery has never actually reached out for assistance. It's not something they felt was helpful. I don't think there is anything we could have done to assist them." 

WBD did not agree with the minister's version of events.   

"Absolutely not true," said Kyne.  

"There were two parts to that statement. The first part around there was nothing that could happen. We were specifically talking about Kordia relief, we were talking about the proposed  Google, Facebook Digital Bargaining Act, and my comments to her were that neither of those things are in place right now and neither of them would address the scale of the revenue drop we have had in the market."

Lee later told Newshub she misspoke and meant to say Warner Bros Discovery hadn't asked specifically for financial assistance.  

The last entry in Lee's diary in December was a meeting with WBD executives.  

"What I did talk about was the level of decline in the advertising market was so severe that it was calling into viability the operating model in New Zealand and that was made very clear to the broadcasting minister on the 21st of December."