Fiona Bruce becomes the first female host of Question Time
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