Former Newsnight editor: 'Stop obsessing about gender'

image captionKirsty Wark and Evan Davis currently present Newsnight

A former Newsnight editor says the programme needs to "stop obsessing about the gender" of its presenters.

John Morrison, who was the editor from 1987 to 1990, also suggested cutting the BBC Two show from 45 minutes to 30.

He said much has changed since he was in charge, but added that Newsnight still needs to do more to compete with its rivals.

Morrison told the Radio Times that axing Newsnight altogether would be a huge loss.

"My sketch of a viable Newsnight: first, stop obsessing about the gender of the new lead presenter," he wrote.

"Newsnight is bigger than its presenters. Newsnight made Jeremy Paxman, not the other way round."

Morrison also said the show would improve if a joint editor of the BBC News at Ten and Newsnight was appointed, so that the shows "stop competing and start collaborating".

image captionJeremy Paxman was Newsnight's longest-serving presenter, between 1989 and 2014, and Olivia O'Leary became the programme's first senior female presenter in 1985

Despite wanting to reduce the show from its current running time of 45 minutes, Morrison said he is an advocate of not just maintaining the budget, but boosting it.

"No BBC boss wants to be remembered for killing [the show]," he continued.

"The plan seems to be: starve Newsnight of resources and eventually it will just fade away."

Newsnight, which is losing one of its presenters, Evan Davis, to BBC Radio 4's PM, has suffered in the ratings in the last year.

It averages around 550,000 viewers, compared with 870,000 for Channel 4 News, a programme with a similar style.

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