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The News Quiz - the Radio Programme

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The News Quiz is a long-running programme on BBC Radio 4, usually broadcast twice a week, on a weekday evening at 6.30 and on Saturday lunchtime, although its broadcast times have varied over the years. It usually occupies this slot for roughly four months of the year, the slot being taken up for the rest of the year by the shows I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue and Just A Minute. Both of these shows share a similar feel to News Quiz and in some cases the same panelists appear in each show.

The Show

The show is essentially a quiz about the news, as you may already have guessed from the title, in which two teams compete to answer questions, usually phrased in the form of appallingly bad puns, on various topical subjects. Humorous cuttings sent in by listeners1 are read out between the rounds and contestants bring in their own examples to read at the end. The show is less about the points scored or knowledge displayed though, as it is about the opportunity provided for the contestants to make jokes.

Originally, the show was a one-off contest between teams from the satirical magazines Private Eye and Punch, which at that time enjoyed a friendly rivalry. When the show became a regular feature of the BBC's schedules, the teams continued to be led by Richard Ingrams, founding editor of Private Eye and currently editor of The Oldie and columnist for The Observer, and Alan Coren, then editor of Punch and now general personality-for-hire, and remained so long after both Ingrams and Coren gave up the reins to younger men.


In the mid-1990s, however, it was felt that the atmosphere of the show had become too stuffy, and Coren and Ingrams were 'asked' to be no longer regular team members, as were older occasional members like the octogenarian journalist and politician Bill Deedes. Then-presenter Barry Took, co-writer with Marty Feldman of Round The Horne, was also dropped. Took was replaced by Guardian columnist and journalist Simon Hoggart, and the teams continued to be made up of much the same people as had been paired with Ingrams and Coren in the past, such as Ian Hislop, current Private Eye editor; Jeremy Hardy, comedian and Guardian columnist; and Francis Wheen, Private Eye contributor and Guardian columnist. Indeed this, along with the stuffiness of which the BBC tried unsuccessfully to rid the show, are among the most important reasons for its success.

Have I Got News for You

The success of the show sparked a similar show on TV, Have I Got News For You. While this show is hugely funny in places, and also features Hislop, it lacks the atmosphere of its radio counterpart. It was, and remains, successful enough to have spawned a whole genre of imitators, themed around sport, like They Think It's All Over; or music, like Never Mind The Buzzcocks; and any other subject you can possibly name.

1Usually either of the urban myth variety or typos, or advertisements such as 'For sale: blow up doll, only used once. Also for sale: Puncture repair kit, also only used once'.

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