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Covid-19 shuts New Zealand’s Radio Sport

New Zealand wing Ben Smith breaks past Dillon Lewis on his way to scoring his team's third try during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Bronze Final match between New Zealand and Wales (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Radio Sport, New Zealand’s only dedicated sports radio station, has been shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Brisbane Times reported that owner New Zealand Media and Entertainment said it had made an “incredibly difficult decision” to shut the station and lay off its 25 staff. It said the decision had been forced by the cancellation and suspension of the sports it was covering.

The company said: “With the cancellation and suspension of virtually all local, national and international events and competitions, NZME has been forced to look closely at the level of sports coverage, including live events across all platforms.

“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.”

Radio Sport became a dedicated sports station in the late 1990s. It covered rugby union and league, cricket, rugby and tennis. Owner NZME operates newspapers including The New Zealand Herald, other radio stations including flagship Newstalk ZB, and websites. The company emailed staff this week to warn that there would be job losses due to the revenue hit during the epidemic.

Sport New Zealand chief executive Peter Miskimmin told news website stuff.co.nz he was sad to see Radio Sport close down: “It championed all of sports from elite through to the grassroots…Sport is a really important ingredient in connecting people together. It’s social connection for the fans.

“It provides entertainment and something to think about outside of your own world and life, and all of those things are limited until we know what the reality post-Covid-19 will be.”

The Brisbane Times quoted former Radio Sport editor Rikki Swannell as saying he hoped the station would restart when sport returned. But, he added: “Sports rights are very expensive for media companies to be buying and so that may mean, for a sports radio station, that is just not viable anymore…’I am hopeful but that may just be being optimistic.”