Fiona Bruce be­comes the first fe­male host of Ques­tion Time

The Guardian - - NEWS - Jim Water­son Me­dia ed­i­tor

Fiona Bruce has been con­firmed as the new pre­sen­ter of the BBC’s Ques­tion Time, be­com­ing the pro­gramme’s first fe­male host.

Bruce is to take over from David Dim­bleby in Jan­uary. Last month the Guardian re­ported that she was in dis­cus­sion about the role.

The pre­sen­ter and news­reader was ini­tially an out­side bet to host the cur­rent af­fairs de­bate pro­gramme when it was an­nounced that Dim­bleby would be leav­ing the show but she im­pressed bosses in a be­hind-closed­doors au­di­tions.

Bruce said it was an hon­our to take on the show “par­tic­u­larly at a time of such his­toric change for the UK and tu­mult at West­min­ster”.

“For many years Ques­tion Time has been pre­sented by one of my tele­vi­sion he­roes, so I am thrilled and not a lit­tle daunted to be step­ping into his shoes,” she said. “But it is a pro­gramme I have watched for as long as I can re­mem­ber and have long wanted to be part of. I can’t wait to get started.”

Bruce has struck a deal that will al­low her to con­tinue to take the Ques­tion Time job with­out giv­ing up her other roles as a reg­u­lar pre­sen­ter on the BBC News at Six and News at Ten, in ad­di­tion to con­tin­u­ing as the host of An­tiques Road­show and arts pro­gramme Fake or For­tune.

Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s di­rec­tor of news and cur­rent af­fairs, praised Bruce’s “au­thor­ity, warmth, and abil­ity to con­nect with the au­di­ence and cham­pion their con­cerns”.

Dim­bleby is due to present his fi­nal episode of Ques­tion Time next week af­ter 25 years with the pro­gramme. How­ever, he will not nec­es­sar­ily be leav­ing the BBC com­pletely, given that there re­mains a pos­si­bil­ity he could be called back into ac­tion in the event of a snap gen­eral elec­tion.

Many lead­ing BBC news pre­sen­ters put them­selves for­ward for one of the cor­po­ra­tion’s high­est-pro­file jobs, with six tak­ing part in pilot episodes with a real panel of MPs and pun­dits in front of a live au­di­ence at a school in south Lon­don.

The pre­sen­ter of To­day, Nick Robinson, the Front Row host Samira Ahmed, and Vic­to­ria Der­byshire were among those who took part in the screenings.

The short­list is thought to have con­sisted of Bruce and the Newsnight hosts Emily Maitlis and Kirsty Wark, with the de­ci­sion taken by the di­rec­tor of con­tent, Char­lotte Moore, and Unsworth.

BBC sources sug­gested there was a de­bate within the cor­po­ra­tion over whether to go for an in­di­vid­ual with a pre-ex­ist­ing rep­u­ta­tion for con­duct­ing po­lit­i­cal in­ter­views on Newsnight – or go for Bruce, who has a higher pro­file with a BBC One au­di­ence.

In the end Bruce won the com­pe­ti­tion to be­come only the show’s fourth host since it was first broad­cast in 1979.

The pre­sen­ter be­gan her ca­reer as a re­searcher on Panorama, later be­com­ing a re­porter at Newsnight. In 2001, she be­came the first woman in the BBC’s gen­eral elec­tion stu­dio team, work­ing along­side Dim­bleby.

▲ Fiona Bruce said she was ‘thrilled and not a lit­tle daunted’ by the role

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