Through the coming week, five commanding international broadcasters are each presenting an edition of Newshour, the BBC World Service’s award-winning current affairs programme.

Jeremy Paxman

Jeremy Paxman sowed the seeds of the idea, though he didn’t realise it at the time. “My hero: the BBC World Service”, he declared to the Guardian earlier this year.

He went on: “I don’t suppose there are many heroes who wear a cardigan and cords. But that’s how I imagine the BBC World Service, an ageing uncle who’s seen it all.”

His heroes at Bush House wanted Jeremy to stop by and say hello – and see for himself that while we’re not (all) fashionistas, the cardies and cords have long since been discarded. With a younger audience profile than, say, Radio 4 or Newsnight, we’re more like the cutting edge cousin than a snoozing uncle.

And from that came the idea of getting Jeremy Paxman and other eminent news broadcasters to present our flagship programme. A statement of our ambition and success – an expression of the World Service’s rude health in spite of Foreign Office cuts in our budget – and a bit of sparkle for our millions of listeners around the world.

Newshour has a fantastic team of regular presenters, of course. Two among them, Lyse Doucet and Owen Bennett Jones, have won Sony gold awards for news journalist of the year. Editor Lucy Walker’s talented team of producers and anchors, along with the best studio managers in the business, have taken Newshour to two Sony radio gold awards for best news and current affairs programme in the past four years. An unrivalled achievement.

That’s helped to deliver a growing global audience to the network. Last year, the English World Service gained a 10% jump in listeners to 43 million, with the biggest numbers in North America and West Africa. In Britain, a spate of big foreign stories and the increasing reach of DAB digital radio has led to even more rapid growth in audience – up to around 1.7 million weekly World Service listeners.

So our guest presenters could well be reaching a much bigger audience than they are accustomed to – they will have to find a tone and touch for live current affairs which works equally well in Lagos and Los Angeles – we are sure they will enjoy the experience, and convey that enjoyment.

And the line up, all live at 14:00 BST (13:00 GMT):

• Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman gets the ball rolling on Monday 26 September as our first guest presenter.
• On Tuesday 27 September, Christine Ockrent, one of France’s most respected news broadcasters, will be in our Bush House studio.
• We come from Johannesburg on Wednesday 28 September, with Redi Tlhabi of Talk Radio 702.
• Christiane Amanpour, ABC’s hugely experienced foreign correspondent, presents from New York on Thursday 29 September.
• And on Friday 30 September, Today’s Evan Davis takes the helm.

As well as pursuing the day’s news agenda, Newshour’s guest presenters will be conducting interviews and exploring themes which reflect their own interests and expertise. And some are using their personal contacts book to get big name guests on to the programme.

Do tune in.

Andrew Whitehead is the editor of BBC World Service News.


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