BBC Newsnight's Kirsty Wark quits after 30 years amid calls to axe show following dwindling ratings

BBC Newsnight's Kirsty Wark quits after 30 years amid calls to axe show following dwindling ratings

WATCH NOW: Newsnight's Kirsty Wark and Husam Zomlot clash

Alex Davies

By Alex Davies

Published: 20/10/2023

- 08:58

The 68-year-old presented her first Newsnight back in 1993

Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark has announced she'll be leaving her post as the face of the BBC show after three decades in the hot seat.

Wark made the announcement on Thursday, 30 years to the day of her first broadcast on the programme back in 1993.

The blow to the BBC staple comes amid a time when calls have been raised to cancel Newsnight altogether - most notably from former BBC boss Katy Searle - after ratings dwindled year after year.

There's been a significant decline in the number of viewers watching since Jeremy Paxman called time on his tenure on the show back in 2014.

Searle said on Roger Bolton’s Beeb Watch podcast: "Is it really the right thing to spend £13 million on a programme that is only watched by 300,000? When, actually, you could do that same investigative journalism but spread it across news in different parts of the day? And remember, Panorama still exists."

Wark's announcement also comes days after another of the Beeb's longest-running shows Countryfile lost a long-serving presenter in the form of Ellie Harrison.

Declining to reference Newsnight's sub-par performance when it comes to viewing figures, Wark said in her exit statement: "Today I am celebrating 30 years presenting Newsnight.

"It is an enormous privilege to be involved in such a rigorous, creative programme with a wonderful, talented, bunch of colleagues – actually many bunches over the years, led, most recently by Esme Wren followed by Stewart Maclean.

Kirsty Wark on Newsnight

Kirsty Wark on Newsnight back in 1995


"There’s not a day when I don’t look forward to coming to the office, and every day I learn something from the team about all manner of things, from aspects of American foreign policy to how to make a great mojito.

"Last year I spoke to both to the Director General Tim Davie and to Stewart and signalled my desire to end my three-decade run on the show after the next election, and that’s the plan.

"When the time comes it will be a massive wrench," she continued before she made clear she would still remain an employee at the BBC on other projects.

Wark explained: "However, I’ll be leaving Newsnight but not the BBC. I’ll still be presenting The Reunion and Start the Week on Radio 4, TV documentaries too as well as finishing, finally, my third novel. There are exciting times ahead."

Kirsty Wark

Kirsty Wark announced her Newsnight exit on Thursday, October 19


Tributes for Wark from fellow BBC employees and director-general Tim Davie followed her statement, with Davie saying: "Generations of Newsnight viewers have benefitted from Kirsty’s authority, her razor-sharp insight and her journalistic flair.

"She sets the standard for engaging yet authoritative presenting. I speak on behalf of the whole BBC when I thank her for the past 30 years.

"I’m delighted the BBC is not losing Kirsty altogether when she steps back from Newsnight and look forward to seeing and hearing her beyond the busy political year ahead."

Victoria Derbyshire said on X, formerly known as Twitter: "Legend @KirstyWark announces she’s to step down from #Newsnight after nxt elex. Today is 30th anniversary of her first #Newsnight shift.

"An incredible journalist serving BBC audiences in unparalleled fashion for 3 decades - & she’ll continue to present other bbc progs. Total [star]."

And Jeremy Vine echoed: "Absolute news goddess. And one of the nicest, most generous people I've ever worked with." (sic)

Kirsty Wark

Kirsty Wark will continue to work with the Beeb


However, her time in hot seat hasn't been without its controversial moments, most notably of late when she spoke to Palestinian ambassador, Husam Zomlot.

Zomlot joined Wark to discuss the ongoing conflict in Gaza and Israel following terrorist group Hamas' attack back on October 7.

Zomlot admitted he'd lost family members in the attacks but Wark drew criticism when she continued to ask him to condemn Hamas' actions.

The Newsnight guest reiterated that he condemned attacks on Palestinian civilians, yelling his family "was not Hamas", and Wark's manner and line of questioning were ultimately branded "callous" and "unprofessional" by several BBC viewers.

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