Wetzell, Henry tipped for Close Up 2

By Amelia Wade

Paul Henry. Photo / APN
Paul Henry. Photo / APN

Close Up's replacement will be a magazine show with two presenters - and Pippa Wetzell and Paul Henry are understood to be the hot favourites.

A confidential brief circulating at TVNZ says the focus will be on the "talking point of the day" and a mixture of news and entertainment.

But a journalism commentator said it would be "Breakfast at dinner-time" and showed the broadcaster's lack of commitment to strong current affairs.

It is no secret within TVNZ that the network has been courting Wetzell and that it wants to give her a prominent role next year.

It is understood she has had meetings with TVNZ executives.

It is not known whether Henry was included in these, though the two personalities are friends outside of work.

A TVNZ source familiar with the show's proposal said there would be a big emphasis on lighter items - the programme would not be shy of "having fun".

It's understood Close Up staff will work on the show, but they will have to reapply for their jobs.

Announcing Close Up's axing on Thursday, TVNZ head of news and current affairs Ross Dagan said the network wanted to reinvent the early evening slot "to present the stories of the day in a way that is very different to what has gone before".

"Everyone on the show is aware that traditional current affairs formats are losing favour with audiences, and this team has set the bar for what's possible.

"However ... the company's view is that this format has simply run its course."

Dagan has been working on the revamp for some time and it is believed that Close Up was marked for closure even before he arrived in April.

The new format is understood to be much like The Project, which airs on Australia's Channel 10 and is hosted by comedians presenting news stories.

Dagan was behind the show before he moved to TVNZ.

"It's the news - but not as you know it," Channel 10 says in a description of the show on its website.

"Guaranteeing no miracle diets, no stories that 'no parent can afford to miss', and virtually no dodgy plumbers, The Project is a TV show joining in the conversations going on in living rooms around the country."

The Project is on each weekday at 6pm and its three hosts "dissect, digest and reconstitute each day's news" in a style "not afraid to be serious, but not a satirical newscast," Channel 10 says.

Topics covered on the show this week included the ballot system to select who could attend Gallipoli centenary celebrations, keeping serious criminals in jail beyond their sentence, plagiarism-reducing technology, child labour, a call to ban selling animals in pet stores and role models for troubled teens.

Prominent Australians also appear on the show.

University of Canterbury associate professor of journalism Jim Tully said Close Up hadn't been presenting itself as a hard-hitting current affairs programme for some time.

"But it sounds as if the format is going to be something that is lighter and more infotainment than what we might think of as a strong current affairs package coming at the end of the news," Professor Tully said.

"Then you take that in conjunction with the cutting back of Sunday to 30 minutes - it appears TVNZ doesn't have a strong commitment to current affairs if you're making moves like that."

Professor Tully said TVNZ would be trying to create a difference between its 7pm show and Campbell Live - like the difference between Breakfast, which was light and fluffy, and TV3's Firstline, which had a harder news focus.

Wetzell did not return Weekend Herald calls last night and Henry could not be reached for comment.

- Additional reporting: Anna Leask

- NZ Herald

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