Friday, July 13, 2018

Playing politics

You get a sense of (copyright Huw Edwards) the scale of the BBC's Westminster operation when you read that it's making 23 people redundant, saving £1.9m - and nothing much seems to be cut.

The big victim is the Sunday Politics, and there's an entertaining circularity in its demise. Way back in 1972, John Birt and presenter Peter Jay started a cerebral Sunday lunchtime politics show on London Weekend Television, called Weekend World.  From 1977, it began to make waves when Brian Walden replaced Peter Jay (off to be US Ambassador) and Walden produced long, calm, tough, political interviews. By 1985, the BBC said "Me, too !" and launched This Week Next Week, presented by David Dimbleby.

On The Record
In 1988, it morphed into On The Record, with David's younger brother in the chair, followed by John Humphrys in 1993.  When Greg Dyke arrived as DG, he ordered a review of BBC political output, conducted in 2000 by one Fran Unsworth. On The Record was scrapped in 2002, and The Politics Show was launched in 2003.

With current presenter Sarah Smith, The Sunday Politics has played out to an average audience of around 650k in recent months, with the earlier Andrew Marr Show on upwards of 1.4m. The same political faces revolve through Andrew Marr, Sophie Ridge on Sky, Jon Pienaar's Sunday Politics on 5Live and the-soon-moving-to-Wednesdays Peston on Sunday.

So the BBC is left with just the regional opt-out bit of the Sunday Politics - and, in an attempt to get it some form of credible audience, it'll be a half hour tagged onto the end of Marr. No word yet on what happens to The Big Questions, fronted by Nicky Campbell, currently in the 10am slot.

BBC Parliament also takes a hit, effectively closing down when Parliament isn't sitting, and hinting that, in future, streaming events away from the main chamber should be left to Parliament, not duplicated by Auntie.

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