The final episode of Sunday has aired in New Zealand—a current affairs show that should, even if you follow the money, remain, says Jack Yan
To our colleagues at Television New Zealand’s Sunday, including Lucire alum Mava Moayyed, we bid you godspeed and good luck. Your programme didn’t deserve cancellation. This country needs proper, long-form current affairs, and with Sunday airing its final episode last night, this has come to a close—let’s hope temporarily. For those outside this country, it’s a show modelled after CBS’s 60 Minutes.

People outside Aotearoa New Zealand have a rosy picture of how things must be here—I was told as much by someone in Germany over the weekend. It’s a picture that would have been forged through years of tourism marketing, and the premiership of Jacinda Ardern, but things have been bleak for journalism in more recent times.

Both Labour and National have not inked a deal with Big Tech to force them to pay for the use of the media industry’s content, which they are getting and circulating for free—while local newspapers are shutting down and now, network news programmes.

It might be easy to say no one is tuning in, and that in a commercial environment—again, one which both legacy parties are loathe to change—it is only right that the profitable remain, especially in difficult economic times.

Yet, here’s the kicker: Sunday was profitable.

We tuned in regularly as we appreciate quality journalism, and since the show made money, then it beggars belief that it has been cancelled. Why are golden geese being killed?

As journalist Jehan Casinader writes in The Spinoff:

While off-peak programmes like Q&A, The Hui and Newshub Nation rely on NZ On Air – receiving $2.6 million between them for 2024 alone – Sunday paid its own way, through primetime advertising and sponsorship from brands like Kiwibank. TVNZ accepts the show still makes a profit.

Casinader relays that the problem was capturing an online audience, and the fact TVNZ did not have a digital current affairs strategy:

A decade ago, TVNZ’s news bosses promised a “digital current affairs strategy”. It was never written. Journalists kept doing what we’d been told to do: clipping up our stories and sticking them on TVNZ’s website and social media channels for people to watch for free. In hindsight, we were digging our own graves. But no one took away our shovels.

There are ways out of this, especially in an age where Big Tech is faltering, and the signs are all there. We have a chance to administer the coup de grâce. The Minister of Broadcasting does not have as uphill a battle as he might think. Legacy brands actually have more clout than they thought, and I suspect Sinéad Boucher of Stuff sees this, too, as her team winds up taking over the 6 p.m. news on TV3. The same rules apply in 2024 as they did in 2000 with how to distribute digital content—but there has been so much insular thinking that little of it has been done. What an opportunity to have an omnimedia approach—and it was missed.

There was never any need to cancel the one quality, long-form current affairs show—and it makes you wonder if other forces were at play, especially with certain politicians in their twilight years attempting to ape their US counterparts by criticizing news media, hoping to undermine public confidence in the fourth estate. It is behaviour fitting of a Mugabe or a Putin and yet we see the vain, unimaginative, and nation-hating import it here. Why others have capitulated to their wishes is cause for concern.
Jack Yan is founder and publisher of Lucire.
Header image: Sunday host Miriama Kamo.