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For the CNN programme see NewsNight with Aaron Brown

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 almost two decades.

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, Kirsty Wark and Emily Maitlis. Newsnight has been broadcast on BBC Two since 1980. It goes out on weekday evenings between 10:30pm and 11:20pm. Recordings are available within the UK via the BBC website. 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 began on 30 January 1980. Its launch was delayed for four months by the Association of Broadcasting Staff, at the time the main BBC trade union. Newsnight was the first programme to be made by means of a direct collaboration between BBC News, then at Television Centremarker, and the current affairs department, based some distance away at the Lime Grove Studiosmarker. Staff feared job cuts.

Former presenters include Peter Snow, a regular for 17 years, Donald MacCormick, Charles Wheeler 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." Her job it was 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. Olivia O'Leary in 1985 became the first female presenter in the strict sense. Editions of the programme have had one single presenter since 1987. 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 being even being informed. The affair sparked a widely reported row within the corporation. One protagonist said it would "destroy the BBC".

From Monday to Thursday on BBC Two Scotland the opt-out 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. It often breaks major stories: the fact, for example, that the 7 July 2005 London bombings had been allowed to happen despite its leader having been monitored by Britain's internal security service.

On 13 May 1997 occurred what became the programme's most notorious interview. Paxman pressed Michael Howard, Home Secretary until thirteen days earlier, about a meeting with Derek Lewis, head of the Prison Service, about the possible dismissal of the governor of Parkhurst Prisonmarker. 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. 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. 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.

Newsnight Review

On Friday evenings Newsnight gives 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 The Late Show strand. 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.


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." 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 but soon-to-be-axed BBC sports programme, Grandstand.

International edition & via 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 or via a search for "Newsnight" on the BBC iPlayer. 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 includes dropping its daily three-hour block of international news. The BBC's commercial US channel, which is available in more than 63m American homes via digital, cable and satellite, this spring (2009) dropped its daily simulcast from the BBC World News channel, which aired between 6am and 9am, because of disappointing ratings, later reinstating the three-hour block due to customer demand. 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.

Current presenters

Very occasionally the programme will be anchored by a presenter from another part of BBC News. Examples have included Huw Edwards and Eddie Mair and in more recent times Jon Sopel and Nick Robinson.

The programme's political editor since April 2007 has been Michael Crick, who 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


  1. Newsnight on demand
  2. Andrew Billen "Flagship sails on", New Statement, 7 February 2000.
  3. 'Fuzzy Monsters: Fear and Loathing at the BBC' (1994) by Chris Horrie and Steve Clarke
  4. 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."
  6. Newsnight website
  7. BBC iPlayer

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