What does the future hold for Newsnight?
It has been reported that the budget faces a massive cut and that the format may change. So far nothing has been confirmed.
But given the BBC’s financial situation and the programme’s low viewing figures, it is inevitable that questions will be asked about whether Newsnight in its current form represents value for money.
At its best Newsnight offers informed discussion, probing interviews, analysis and original journalism.
But it seems to have lost any sense of being must-see viewing – a programme which opinion formers and news junkies feel is essential to their day.
It is hard to quite decide where this decline stems from.
Of course, competition has increased and linear viewing is in decline.
I would personally argue that Newsnight suffered some damage after the main BBC One news moved to 10pm in 2000.
It was always a big ask to expect viewers to switch over straight away for yet more news.
Now BBC News viewers face the dilemma between staying for the regional news or switching to Newsnight’s top story.
It is worth noting that the programme mounted a full recovery from the fallout over the Jimmy Savile scandal and a subsequent flawed investigation into alleged child abuse. The credit for that should go to Ian Katz who is now with Channel 4.
But whatever might happen to Newsnight, the loss of a daily forum for analysis and informed discussion on a major BBC channel should surely be considered unthinkable.
Here’s a radical suggestion. Move an evolved Newsnight on to BBC One.
This is not as daft as it sounds.
Firstly, the programme’s forefathers – 24 Hours, Midweek and the late-70s programme titled Tonight – were all on BBC One.
The move of the daily current affairs programme to BBC Two in 1980 was controversial at the time but soon seemed to make sense.
But in recent years, BBC One has struggled to fill the late evenings – the time is often simply filled by repeats as a result of budget cuts.
A restyled Newsnight – with a very tight focus on interviews and analysis to complement the Ten – could run on BBC One at 10.40pm.
It would naturally inherit some of the Ten’s viewers.
Of course, it could only run three days a week normally – Thursdays belong to Question Time and it would be folly to suggest ditching Graham Norton on Fridays for something so very different.
Yes, the new Newsnight would be cheaper. But with a bigger audience it could regain lost influence and prestige.
It is an idea worthy of discussion.
PICTURED: Newsnight logo. COPYRIGHT: BBC.