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New Zealand's Radio Sport goes off air as coronavirus bites

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand’s Radio Sport has ceased broadcasting indefinitely because of the coronavirus shutdown, bringing to an end nearly a quarter of a century of commentary, interviews and sport-related chat.

Long the home of national and international rugby union, cricket, rugby league and tennis match commentary in the sports-mad nation, Radio Sport programming was cut off on Monday afternoon.

“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,” New Zealand Media and Entertainment (NZME) said in statement.

“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.”

New Zealand has declared a state of emergency to try and control the coronavirus, which has so far infected more than 640 people and resulted in one death in the country.

Sport New Zealand chief executive Peter Miskimmin said the loss of the station was “sad” and would have an impact on the sporting environment in the country.

“It championed all of sports from elite through to the grassroots,” the twice Olympian told stuff.co.nz.

“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.”

NZME, which operates newspapers, radio networks and websites in New Zealand, warned earlier this month that the coronavirus outbreak would hurt its performance. Its shares halved in value during March.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Richard Pullin

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