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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 12:33 GMT
Never say never


By Peter Barron
Newsnight editor

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    It's been pointed out to me that in this column a few weeks back I said: "There are stories we'll (probably) never do - like Who's in the Big Brother house?"

    Jeremy Paxman's Big Brother appearance with George Galloway inset
    Jeremy wanted to be the first to welcome Mr Galloway back to reality
    And then on Wednesday we go and lead on George Galloway on the occasion of his eviction.

    When I wrote that, of course, I didn't know that Mr Galloway would be taking part, and I certainly think his involvement and the other controversies that surround him are worthy of our attention, but I'm glad I left that "probably" in.

    If, three weeks ago, you'd asked for odds on the chances of Jeremy Paxman appearing on Celebrity Big Brother the bookies would, I suspect, have been generous, so we were particularly chuffed that it was Jeremy - and not our colleagues on, say, Channel 4 News - who got the first chance to put a question to Mr Galloway.

    You might say it's come to something when Newsnight and Channel 4 News are vying for stories about reality TV shows.

    Indeed some of you have:

    It is a sad day when the BBC and Newsnight have lower standards than Celebrity Big Brother
    Tom Berney, East Kilbride

    But on the other hand...

    It's hard to believe that the UK has such low election voter turnout when the BBC and others have such informative and engaging political programming, and Newsnight is leading the way
    TT, London

    The rule is: there are no rules

    Former Big Brother housemate Makosi Musambasi
    Makosi Musambasi was interviewed by Channel 4 News about Zimbabwe
    I was talking to a group of students taught by the former Newsnight editor and Channel 4 Head of News and Current Affairs, David Lloyd, the other day about what Newsnight should and shouldn't be, and we were reminded of the house rules that Channel 4 News set for itself right back at the beginning of the 1980s.

    When the programme was launched it was decreed that they would not cover royals, crime or sport.

    You could see what the thinking was - get away from the stodgy diet of lazy 70s reporting - but it did tie them up in all sorts of crazy knots, most memorably when Michael Ryan ran amok in Hungerford, killing 17.

    In the end they did run the story, but not before the then presenter Peter Sissons threatened to resign if they didn't.

    These days, being interested in politics and serious current affairs doesn't preclude an enthusiastic interest in entertainment, sport, even gossip
    So it would be wrong to have a no Big Brother rule. I'm not saying we're going to interview Chantelle when she finally emerges - though I notice Channel 4 News did an interview the other day with Makosi on the situation in Zimbabwe - but it's clear that the news landscape is changing all the time.

    Audience research and on-line statistics show that, these days, being interested in politics and serious current affairs doesn't preclude an enthusiastic interest in entertainment, sport, even gossip.

    If there has to be a rule I'd say anything's fair game as long as we attempt to say something intelligent about it.

    Jeremy, please go to the diary room

    But where might it all lead? I received the following message today:

    "Jeremy's agent called to forewarn you he may have to take some dates off next year. He was surprised with the response to Big Brother and has initially agreed to be in the BB house next year."

    Just promise no leotards.

    Theme park

  • Read some of your comments on the UK theme...

    A section of the BBC Radio 4 logo
    Radio 4 has attracted a lot of controversy over its decision
    If reporting Big Brother is pandering to the masses, our reporting of the demise of Radio 4's UK theme is playing to a niche market.

    But what a powerful and vociferous niche, given that the theme airs daily at 5.30am.

    This week we've been playing out with excerpts from Fritz Spiegl's masterwork as an affectionate farewell, and that's provoked a far bigger response from viewers than any of George Galloway's antics.

    Finally, don't forget that you can send your views on our new studio design: CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS


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