BBC’s Robert Peston moving to ITV?

 

A great scoop for The Radio Times – it understands the BBC’s Economics Editor, Robert Peston, has been offered the job of Political Editor of ITV News.

He’s said to be making a decision this week – to poach him would be quite a coup for Geoff Hill and Tim Singleton. Peston’s one of the BBC’s most recognisable and trusted reporters.

It’s clear from his recent interviews that Peston has been feeling increasingly restless and the opportunity to report on politics from a premier position at a broadcaster is no doubt attractive.

But, as I’ve previously argued, I think there needs to be more diversity in the roles of political editor. Clearly it’s not the only the issue, but does ITV want to be the only major UK broadcaster with a middle-aged white man fronting their political coverage?

I also can’t help feeling, given ITV’s target audience, the cerebral Peston might not be the ideal person to communicate policy to the viewer.

And perhaps that means Peston should be cautious too.

He doesn’t need career advice  from me, but perhaps he should consider how successful or not some of the big name BBC to ITV transfers have been. The path to Gray’s Inn Road may be well-trodden but so is the road back to New Broadcasting House.

Still, I’ve argued before that part of what an Editor wants to achieve from appointing a new Political Editor is to make a statement about the news service’s positioning, garner positive headlines and deliver impact. On that basis alone hiring Robert Peston would be a success; it’s a bold and audacious move.

Who will be the new Political Editors of BBC and ITV News?

westminster

They’re changing the guard at the Palace of Westminster.

After 10 years as political editors of BBC News and ITV News respectively both Nick Robinson and Tom Bradby are off to become presenters. Nick on Radio 4’s Today programme, Tom on ITV’s News at Ten.

The political editor of a TV (and these days digital) news service is a unique position in the broadcast firmament. Reporter, pundit, political anorak, celebrity, workaholic,  and conduit between government and company – the roles it encompasses are varied and subtle. It requires a sophisticated skill set to do the job well.

So, who’s in the running for two of the top jobs in British news?

As I’ve argued before these roles have for too long been awarded to middle-aged, white men. And the two deputies, James Landale and Chris Ship,at BBC and ITV respectively, fit that demographic. Both are competent and well respected, either would be a safe pair of hands.

But the deputy never gets the top job.

If you’re James Harding or Geoff Hill you want your appointment to make waves, garner headlines, perhaps bring in fresh blood and say something about your positioning of your news brand.

And I’d say that also rules out Sky News’s Joey Jones.

I’d say the most eligible candidates are all women. For either channel the interview short-list could look something like this:

Newsnight’s Laura Kuenssberg, Emily Maitlis and Allegra Stratton – all rising stars with serious clout, they may well want to take on the challenge while leaving Newsnight to head towards oblivion.

The BBC’s Lucy Manning – a well respected political journalist at ITV and Channel 4 before heading to the BBC, she’s got the Westminster chops. Crucially she’s also close to Head of Newsgathering, Jonathan Munro.

Channel 4’s Cathy Newman – a previous life with the FT and as a political correspondent means she’s got the experience. But with Jon Snow rapidly approaching 70 perhaps she might feel her name is firmly in the running to be lead presenter at Channel 4.

And as an outside bet, especially for ITV News, I’d look at the former political editor of The Observer, Gabby Hinsliff.

One final thought: Evan Davis has never really appeared comfortable at Newsnight. Could this be a way back into the mainstream of news?

Who will replace Adam Boulton as Sky News’s Political Editor?

I admit it. The headline’s a come on. I’ve no inside scoop – although I do have some thoughts on who it should be.

Whoever it is will have big shoes to fill. Boulton has been a big part of the success of Sky News. For 25 years he’s provided the latest analysis on the political story of the day. Unflappably for the most part, although some have rather uncharitably focused on his on-screen arguments.

He obviously wanted a change and I’d argue that in reality the post of political editor has been filled by Joey Jones for the last year or so anyway. Adam’s time has been spent on his lunchtime show, Boulton and Co. But, for me, he’s a much more interesting reporter than presenter.

If it was me making the appointment, I’d be looking for a big name, with a lobby background who can provide instant analysis of politics and policy. It would also be good to try and break the mould of white, middle-aged man as political editor. Being political editor of Sky News you have to have an appetite for politics, be a nerd about the policy, understand the context and the history – and still be able to make it understandable to the man in the street.

I’d say the runners and riders are heir apparent Joey Jones, Channel 4 News’s Cathy Newman, Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis, ITV’s Lucy Manning and, as a lobby curveball, The Times’s Roland Watson. That would be my personal interview list. There’s already been some speculation about Tom Bradby or James Lansdale too. Can’t see either of those being tempted from their current berths though.

No doubt Ladbrooke’s will have a book open soon.

And if you want to know why Adam Boulton will be such a hard act to follow, take a look at this video of an old two-way in atrocious weather. There’s not many that would put up with this.