Saturday 26 December 2015

A Review of Newsnight's 2015


Newsnight's final edition of the year was a look-back at 2015.  

Its choice of panel says a good deal about the programme under former Guardian deputy editor Ian Katz, being strikingly left-leaning and having a pronounced arts bias. 

It consisted of Germaine Greer, Gary Younge of the Guardian, Labour-supporting Josie Rourke of the Donmar Warehouse, and Conservative peer and Times columnist Lord Finkelstein. 

With three of the guests holding views that ranged across pretty similar parts of the contemporary Left and just one representing the Right (and doing so from a firmly pro-Cameron, centre-right standpoint), the spread of opinions offered wasn't exactly wide - and certainly wasn't very balanced. 

On the migration crisis, for example, the resultant views ranged from the 'It's all about white racism' shtick of Gary Younge through to the cautious but generally pro-immigration comments of Danny Finkelstein, passing through Josie Rourke's compassion along the way. The views of a large chunk of British public opinion on the matter were, therefore, missing from the debate. 

The others topics chosen for discussion were the political situation in 2015, concentrating heavily on the Corbyn factor, and Germaine Greer's views on transgender issue - and that says even more about Ian Katz's Newsnight, doesn't it? 

To spend a sizeable chunk of a half-hour end of year review programme deliberately re-hashing one of Twitter/The Guardian's biggest 'Bubble' rows of the year - and, thus, knowingly stirring it up again - shows the mindset at work here I think. Mr Katz's Newsnight has been obsessed with that kind of a story from the very start.


Of course, things aren't looking too bright for Newsnight as we pass from 2015 to 2016. BBC One's aggressive expansion of News at Ten to take on ITV's revamped News at Ten threatens to eat into Newsnight's starting audience - especially unhelpful given that Newsnight's viewing figures have continued to crumble on Ian Katz's watch (with a further fall of 3-5% just last year). 

If this continues, and if Newsnight itself continues (as it most likely will), by this time next year there might only be me left as a viewer, with just a handful of transgender Greerophobes, a few remaining Corbynistas on Twitter (busily spewing abuse), the odd Mumsnet founder (standing by her man), plus a few dozen die-hard Emily Maitlis fans (all men) for company.

With Allegra Stratton and Duncan Weldon taking to the hills too, it just gets worse for the programme.

It has tried though. It's plugged away at its very fews 'scoops' for what seems like most of the year - especially Kids Company. (At times it's seemed as if Newsnight has been just one long Kids Company special this year). It's as if that was all they'd got as a big 'scoop' - and they went on and on and on and on about it. (Their coverage of the Saudi-UK relationship and the Yemen conflict has been another such topic).

And over the past month the programme has clearly been trying very hard to project itself as more serious and substantial, with a series of 'harrowing' and 'moving' reports ["Contains upsetting scenes"] - though, to me, that's only made it appear even more like the Guardian at its most self-important. 

And that's all I have to say about it. (Probably more than enough for most people!)

1 comment:

  1. I am not surprised that Newsnight's ratings are in free-fall what with those childish question Evan Davis puts to guests he disapproves of, along the lines of "Are you saying Paddington Bear should have been tasered at the border?"/"Wouldn't Micky Mouse disapprove of the language used by Donald Trump?"

    One assumed that Paxman was just displaying sour grapes when complaining about the sixth formers taking over the programme but now we see he was right to be concerned.


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