Newsnight is a late night current affairs programme produced by the BBC. It airs at 10:30pm every week day with a typical viewership of 570,000 per episode. It focusses on politics both national and international, with the team at Newsnight having made a name for themselves through the intense cross-examinations of senior politicians seen in their interviews. Jeremy Paxman was the face of the programme until he stepped down in April 2014, a somewhat controversial presenter due to his stubborn interview style that has produced some truly iconic moments. However, Newsnight’s viewership has halved over last 10 years, some seeing its future in jeopardy after Paxman’s far from quiet exit.
Impartiality is of the utmost importance in BBC programmes, due to the fact that the BBC is funded by the license payer. This means that they have to represent the views of the nation as well as adhering to Ofcom guidelines. From the presenters, to the subject matter chosen, great care is always taken to always produce in-depth, informative news tailored to the nation. This is clearly done successfully as the BBC are the UK’s most trusted source of news at 32%, as found by this study.
As it is shown on BBC 2, immediately after the BBC News at 10, the Newsnight audience is limited to those of real interest, making it a more highbrow production. The News agenda is tailored to this; the major political stories, that may get less attention on the 10 o’clock news, are analysed far deeper, with a string of guests invited on to hear each angle of the story. Newsnight has incurred a problem of late as after ITV’s News at 10 revamp failed to compete with the BBC, the show was pushed back to 10:30pm pitting it directly against Newsnight. ITV news boasts almost four times the viewership. This has resulted in increased pressure in the fight to keep Newsnight alive, but it’s core viewers: The intellectual and politically interested have kept it afloat.
The anchors of the show differs from day to day, but typically Evan Davis is the one at the helm. He, however, often finds himself outside the comforts of the studio covering stories and carrying out interviews. Kirsty Wark and Emily Maitlis cover a similar role, spending as much time in as out of the studio. The setup is less structured than the BBC and ITV, it being rarity that I catch BBC’s News at 10 without seeing Huw Edwards or Fiona Bruce. The Newsnight presenters seem to do substantially more field work than any other competing programme.
In the more formal news programmes, interviews are carried out in a far more respectful manor than those of the Newsnight cast. Evan Davis often shows his inner Paxman, a style he was more than familiar with, from his work for Radio 4’s Today. A stubborn, almost aggressive approach to the interviewee is often taken when politicians try to hide behind scripted, substanceless answers. A style adored by the core viewership.
The programme itself runs similarly to any of the other aforementioned news shows, the host summarises the main stories, before moving into them (typically 6). Where Newsnight adds it’s own creativity is in the viewsnight section, where independent writers, poets and journalists share their views on particular topic’s. An example of this is French-Algerian journalist Nibila Ramdani’s view on how ‘Marine Le Pen won’t do a Donald’. This featured on the 9th of February, and just how right was she! Viewsnight is creatively brilliant and engaging, offering something a little different to the norm.
The show is also dominated by ULAYSOT’s, used to introduce the majority of stories reported outside of the studio. Chris Cook, the policy editor often makes great use infographics as the video content accompany his spoken work. For example uniquely mapping the movements made by parties in last Thursday’s edition. This media-centric style is visually brilliant and more apparent on Newsnight than elsewhere.
There is no room for sport on Newsnight’s agenda, as can be seen toward the end of the other late night news. It must be strictly serious news and debate throughout. Discussion is a huge part of the majority of stories on Newsnight, they seem to go through more guests per episode than anyone else. In keeping with impartiality, when discussions of brexit take place for example, UKIP accompany the three major parties in representatives on show.
Newsnight is by no means the biggest amongst its competitors, but BBC 2’s flagship broadcast certainly has the hearts of its core audience. However, the dwindling numbers has lead to constant speculation as to the future of Newsnight. Will they be able to adapt to the increasingly, less linear fashion by which people consume news? There is talk of it moving to 11pm, covering the full hour until 12 without the pressures of competing for views.