21 May 2015

Tears, tributes for Campbell on 3 News

7:47 pm on 21 May 2015

Emotion took over for John Campbell's colleagues as they dealt with the news their "friend and colleague" was leaving the channel.

John Campbell at a rally which aimed to save his show outside the MediaWorks building in Auckland.

John Campbell at a rally which aimed to save his show outside the MediaWorks building in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Tiana Barns

MediaWorks today announced it was axing his Campbell Live programme, and Campbell would leave the channel. A new current affairs programme will play in the 7pm in the slot.

TV3 newsreader Hilary Barry choked back tears as her channel reported the story.

Barry was to read the story following a report on Campbell but, with emotion in her voice, Ms Barry said: "I think Mike might have to read this report."

Fellow newsreader Mike McRoberts then took over the reading of the story.

Earlier he had described Campbell as a "friend and colleague", and at the end of the news hour he introduced Campbell Live with the line "still telling the stories that matter".

A visibly emotional Campbell started his show with no mention of the news, presenting a story on a struggling family.

Between stories he paid tribute to the producers and camera people on his show, saying: "You are outstanding."

At the end of the show he thanked viewers for their support, which had surged in recent times.

"Thank you for watching us all," he said, again paying tribute to those behind the scenes.

Asked to co-host

Earlier, speaking in a video to staff members, MediaWorks Group Head of News Mark Jennings said Campbell was asked to co-host the new show, which would have two presenters, but had decided to leave the company.

"The show will have a new name and that's because unfortunately John has decided that it's time for him to take a break. I'm personally very disappointed in that, he's been a fantastic presenter."

Mr Jennings said that Mr Campbell had been in the job for ten years, and while MediaWorks was disappointed, it was grateful for all he had done and accomplished.

The move comes after a review of the show, which prompted a large public and critical response.

Campbell Live's ratings surged during the review period, during which it regularly out-rated the 6pm 3 News show.

Mr Jennings said the review had found that what was most relevant to the audience at 7pm was current affairs, but not Campbell Live "as we know it".

He said the new show, expected to launch in six to eight weeks, would begin recruiting hosts immediately.

MediaWorks chief executive officer Mark Weldon said the review was "rigorous" and the senior management team were unanimous in their decision.

"Despite the quality of the show, Campbell Live had lost viewers every year for 10 years to the point where the show was unsustainable," he said.

Weldon said he wanted to "pay tribute" to Campbell for his "huge contribution to TV3", while also adding he'd offered him a three-year contract last year.

The Campbell Live Facebook page said: "Thank you all for your support over the past seven weeks. We are still finalising when our last day on air will be. Just one point of clarification, John was offered a three year contract last year but only the first year was on Campbell Live."

Media commentator Phil Wallington said it was inevitable the Campbell Live current affairs show would be axed, despite Campbell asking hard questions, looking at the stories of ordinary people, and grilling politicians such as the Prime Minister.

He said TV3's management were running an entertainment and comedy channel, and news was just an adjunct to that.

Reactions came quickly on Twitter.

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