BBC Newsnight.png
Genre News and current affairs
Created by BBC News
Presented by Jeremy Paxman
Kirsty Wark
Gavin Esler
Emily Maitlis
Theme music composer George Fenton
Country of origin United Kingdom
Language(s) English
Producer(s) BBC News
Editor(s) Peter Rippon
Running time 50 minutes
Original channel BBC Two
Picture format 1024x576 (1980-present anamorphic 16:9)
Original run 30 January 1980 – present
Related shows Newsnight Scotland
Newsnight Review
External links

Newsnight is a BBC Television current affairs programme noted for its in-depth analysis and often robust cross-examination of senior politicians. Jeremy Paxman has been its main presenter for over two decades.[1]

Several of the programme's editors over the years have gone on to senior positions within the BBC and elsewhere. Paxman's fellow presenters are Gavin Esler,[2] Kirsty Wark[3] and Emily Maitlis.[4] Newsnight has been broadcast on BBC Two since 1980. It goes out on weekday evenings between 10:30pm and 11:20pm. Occasionally it may have an extended edition if there is an especially eventful event in the news - as happened on July 7 2011, when closure of the News of the World led to an extended version which went on until 11:35 pm. Recordings are available within the UK via the BBC website.[5] A weekly 26-minute digest edition of Newsnight is screened on the corporation's international channel, BBC World News.



The original 1980 opening titles

Newsnight in its current format began on 30 January 1980, although a shorter news bulletin of the same name had run in its late-night BBC2 slot during the 1970s. Its launch was delayed for four months by the Association of Broadcasting Staff, at the time the main BBC trade union.[6] Newsnight was the first programme to be made by means of a direct collaboration between BBC News, then at Television Centre, and the current affairs department, based some distance away at the Lime Grove Studios. Staff feared job cuts.

Former presenters include Peter Snow, a regular for 17 years, Donald MacCormick, Charles Wheeler, Adam Raphael and John Tusa, later boss of the BBC World Service. In the early days each edition had an auxiliary presenter, a phenomenon pejoratively known at the time as the "Newsnight's wife syndrome."[6] It was her job (it was usually a she) to read the news headlines and to introduce minor items. This was the most visible symptom of the dual origin of programme content in two separate BBC departments.[clarification needed] Olivia O'Leary in 1985 became the first female presenter in the strict sense.[clarification needed] Editions of the programme have had one single presenter since 1987.[6] Newsnight is today wholly managed under the aegis of BBC News.

Until 1988, the start time of Newsnight was flexible, so BBC2 could screen a movie at 9:30pm to dovetail with the conclusion of the main news on BBC1. The fixed time slot of 10:30pm was established in the face of fierce objections from the then managing director of BBC TV, Bill Cotton, otherwise in charge of all scheduling decisions. The very announcement was made without his even being informed. The affair sparked a widely reported row within the corporation. One protagonist said it would "destroy the BBC".[7]

From Monday to Thursday on BBC Two Scotland the offshoot, Newsnight Scotland, presented by Gordon Brewer, replaces the final twenty minutes of the UK programme.

Newsnight's signature tune was composed by George Fenton. Various arrangements have been used over the years.


Newsnight is one of the UK's most influential news programmes and often breaks major news stories.

On 13 May 1997 there occurred what became the programme's most notorious interview. Paxman pressed Michael Howard, Home Secretary, about a meeting with Derek Lewis, head of the Prison Service, about the possible dismissal of the governor of Parkhurst Prison. Faced with what he considered evasive answers, Paxman put the same question– "Did you threaten to overrule him?" (i.e. Lewis)– twelve times in succession.[8] Later, during a twentieth anniversary edition of Newsnight, Paxman told Howard that he'd simply been trying desperately to string out the interview because the next item in the running order had failed to materialize.[9] In 2004 Paxman raised the subject again with Howard, by then leader of the Conservative Party. This time, Howard laughed it off, saying that he had not threatened to overrule the head of the Prison Service.[citation needed]


In April 2001 the BBC's governors ruled that Newsnight's coverage of Peter Mandelson's resignation over the Hinduja affair had been politically biased. The governors criticised the programme for only featuring Labour Party supporters on the panel discussing the issue, and no opposition politicians appeared at any stage of the 45 minute episode. The broadcast attracted an outcry in the media with one critic describing it as a whitewash worthy of a "one-party state".[10][11][12]

Newsnight Review

From 2000 until December 2009, on Friday evenings Newsnight gave way at 11:00pm to Newsnight Review, a 35-minute consumer survey of the week's artistic and cultural highlights. Mark Lawson was the programme's main presenter in its Late Review incarnation, which began life as a strand of The Late Show. He continued to chair the panel of guest reviewers when it reincarnated as Newsnight Review in 2000, up until December 2005. The programme has been presented by Kirsty Wark, Martha Kearney, John Wilson, Tim Marlow, Kwame Kwei-Armah and Hardeep Singh Kohli. Regular reviewers have included Mark Kermode, Tom Paulin, Ekow Eshun and Germaine Greer.

As part of the BBC's commitment to moving programmes out of London, Newsnight Review finished on 18 December 2009 with a special hour-long edition. The programme has been replaced by The Review Show, produced from Glasgow, which started on 22 January 2010.[13][14] It has the same producer as Newsnight Review and is still presented by Kirsty Wark and Martha Kearney.


Traditionally, there is a short stock market update at the end of each edition. In 2005, Newsnight's then editor, Peter Barron, replaced it with a 30-second weather report, arguing that the market data was available on the internet and that a weather report would be more useful. The change provoked a flurry of complaints.

Paxman on one occasion adopted a sarcastic tone and announced: "So finally and controversially, tomorrow's weather forecast. It's a veritable smorgasbord. Sun, rain, thunder, hail, snow, cold, wind. Almost worth going to work." On other occasions: "It's April, what do you expect?" and, "Take an umbrella with you tomorrow." He claimed, nonetheless, that he was happy presenting the weather. Gavin Esler also joined in, announcing: "As for the spring, you can forget about that until further notice."[15] The programme conducted a telephone poll. Michael Fish, a former weather forecaster, was seen arguing in favour of the weather report, while Norman Lamont, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, argued for the market update. 62% of viewers voted in favour of the markets, and the update duly returned on Monday 18 April 2005.

Other stunts include: for a week at the end of January 2006, Newsnight played over its closing credits the so-called Radio 4 UK Theme which was facing the axe; the 24 April 2006 edition played out to the signature tune of the soon-to-be-axed BBC sports programme, Grandstand.

Between January and June 2006 the programme included Gordaq, a spoof Stock Exchange index measuring the political performance of Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. The index started at 100 and moved up or down depending on Brown's political situation, finishing at 101 on 30 June 2006.

International edition and other media

Newsnight is available within the UK via broadband on BBC iPlayer for up to seven days after broadcast. It can be found on the Newsnight website[16] or via a search for "Newsnight" on the BBC iPlayer.[17] A weekly digest version of Newsnight is screened on the corporation's international news channel, BBC World News.

BBC America axed its US version of Newsnight as part of a series of changes that included dropping its daily three-hour block of international news. The BBC's commercial US channel, which is available in more than 63 million American homes via digital, cable and satellite, in the spring of 2009, dropped its daily simulcast from the BBC World News channel, which aired between 6am and 9am, because of disappointing ratings. It reinstated the three-hour block due to customer demand, and later expanded it to four hours. The special edition of Newsnight, which featured a roundup of the best stories from the UK programme and was fronted by Paxman, was dropped in November 2008.

KCET, a PBS affiliate in Los Angeles, broadcasts Newsnight and sponsors the programme for PBS stations throughout the US.[18]

Current presenters

Occasionally the programme will be anchored by another presenter from BBC News. Examples have included Huw Edwards, Eddie Mair, Jon Sopel, Nick Robinson, Laura Kuenssberg, Matt Frei,[19][20] Stephanie Flanders.[21][22] and Mishal Husain.[23]

Newsnight announced via twitter on the 21 November 2011 that Allegra Stratton is to become the programmes Political Editor. Michael Crick was the programme's political editor from April 2007 until his return to Channel 4 in the summer of 2011. Crick succeeded Martha Kearney, also an intermittent presenter of the programme until her departure to present Radio Four's weekday lunchtime news programme The World At One.

Past presenters

Newsnight editors

  • George Carey (1980–1981)
  • Ron Neil (1981–1982)
  • David Lloyd (1982–1983)
  • David Dickinson (1983–1985)
  • Richard Tait (1985–1987)
  • John Morrison (1987–1990)
  • Tim Gardam (1990–1993)
  • Peter Horrocks (1994–1997)
  • Sian Kevill (1998–2001)
  • George Entwistle (2001–2004)
  • Peter Barron (2004–2008)
  • Peter Rippon (2008–present)


  1. ^ Newsnight - Jeremy Paxman BBC News, 28 May 2009
  2. ^ Newsnight - Gavin Esler BBC News, 28 May 2009
  3. ^ Newsnight - Kirsty Wark BBC News, 28 May 2009
  4. ^ Newsnight - Emily Maitlis BBC News, 28 May 2009
  5. ^ "''Newsnight'' on demand". BBC News. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c Andrew Billen "Flagship sails on", New Statesman, 7 February 2000
  7. ^ Chris Horrie and Steve Clarke 'Fuzzy Monsters: Fear and Loathing at the BBC' (1994)
  8. ^ Horrocks, Peter (21 January 2005). "Paxman versus Howard". BBC News. 
  9. ^ Paxman's explanation was that "by the time I'd asked the question five or six times... it was clear... that you [Howard] weren't going to answer it... at which point a voice came in my ear and said "The next piece of tape isn't cut, you'd better carry on with this for a while" and I'm afraid I couldn't think of anything else to ask you."
  10. ^ BBC admits Labour bias on Newsnight broadcast - Telegraph
  11. ^ GENERAL ELECTION 2010: BBC is meant to be even-handed but it often isn't | Mail Online
  12. ^ BBC guilty of bias over Mandelson. - Daily Mail (London) | HighBeam Research
  13. ^ "A decade of Newsnight Review". Newsnight Review (BBC News). 18 January 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  14. ^ "Friday 18 December: The year in Review". Newsnight Review (BBC News). 17 December 2009. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  15. ^ "Weather or markets? You decide". BBC News. 11 April 2005. Retrieved 7 April 2010. 
  16. ^ "''Newsnight''". BBC News. 29 January 2010. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  17. ^ "BBC iPlayer". BBC. 27 July 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  18. ^ BBC Newsnight KCET - Infinitely more
  19. ^ Newsnight BBC Two, 19 January 2011
  20. ^ Newsnight Wednesday 19 January 2011 BBC Blogs, 19 January 2011
  21. ^ Newsnight BBC Two, 24 September 2010
  22. ^ Newsnight Friday 24 September 2010 BBC Blogs, 24 September 2010
  23. ^ BBC Newsnight: From the web team: Friday 11 February 2011 BBC Blogs, 11 February 2011


External links

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