Sunday, December 13, 2015

Ticking over

The selection of a comparison period can produce differing results.
Newsnight averaged 605k over the three months to April 2014. From September 2013 (when Ian Katz took the helm) to April 2014, it stood at 590k. The same period up to April 2013 averaged 614k.

Robert Peston's first Newsnight as presenter, in July 2014, attracted 700k. One last piece of bait to tempt the bouffant one to stay with Auntie was regular hosting of the Thursday edition, which might have been billed as "Peston Time" v Question Time.

News Statesman tv critic Rachel Cooke asked "Whither Newsnight ?" this week. She suggests it's now clear that "the patient and conciliatory style" of Evan Davis doesn't work for the show, and that "too often, its journalists end up telling me something I already know. I want Newsnight to stand at an angle to the news cycle, with all the richness and depth that implies. But on a quiet day it feels to me like yet more wafer-thin bullshit."

Peter Preston in the Observer suggests getting rid of the growing overlap between Newsnight and the 10pm BBC1 bulletin: "move Newsnight to BBC1 so that it runs on for 45 minutes once the national and regional bulletins are over - a full hour-and-a-half of reporting and discussion stitched seamlessly together, a total package to match some more intensive European offerings ...but such boldness is not an instinctive friend here in the vast wide-screen newsroom of limited ambition."

It's possible that Newsnight is now BBC News' most expensive programme, in terms of cost per viewer hour. A sharper use of resources should be required in 2016. That requires more live items, more intelligent (not 'clever') casting of debates, and a relentless hunt for the Cooke 'angle', which should be the Newsnight difference.

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