BBC Crisis: Budget Cuts Have Hurt Flagship News Show 'Newsnight' (Report)

newsnight logo - H 2012

Industry insiders say the program, at the center of the debate about the U.K. broadcaster's editorial standards, has seen its budget cut in half in recent years.


LONDON - BBC news program Newsnight has been airing on weekday evenings since 1980, and it has long been a flagship show for the U.K. public broadcaster.

But in recent weeks, the program, which airs on BBC Two between 10:30 p.m. and 11:20 p.m., has been at the center of a crisis at the broadcaster and a debate about whether its editorial standards have weakened.

First, it emerged that Newsnightlate last year dropped an investigation into sexual abuse allegations against late former BBC host Jimmy Savile. That decision and what led to it is currently being reviewed internally.

And last week, a mistaken Newsnight report suggesting that a British politician was involved in a child abuse case led to the resignation of BBC boss George Entwistle after only 54 days on the job.

Industry insiders say that continued budget cuts at Newsnight are partly to blame for the recent editorial shortcomings.

Newsnight host Jeremy Paxman over the weekend cited budget issues as he lashed out against the BBC bureaucracy. He said part of the BBC's problem was "a series of cuts on program budgets, while bloating the management."

On Wednesday, the Guardian cited industry insiders as saying that the annual budget of Newsnight has dropped from more than $15.9 million (£10 million) in the middle of the last decade to as little as $7.9 million (£5 million) now. Some sources estimated the budget at slightly above that figure, the paper said.

"They don't have the budgets to make those big films they used to make, traveling all over the world," one source told the Guardian.

The Newsnight budget has been trimmed amid continued cutbacks at the BBC.

The latest budget cuts came earlier this year as part of former director general Mark Thompson's latest push to reduce the broadcaster's cost structure.

Twitter: @georgszalai