Jeremy Paxman claims 'any fool' could be a newsreader in tirade against the BBC

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Craig Simpson
·3 min read
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The presenter has criticised the corporation
The presenter has criticised the corporation

Huw Edwards and the BBC’s roster of newsreaders regularly feature on the broadcaster’s list of top earners.

But Jeremy Paxman has suggested they aren’t worth the money, claiming in a tirade against BBC colleagues that “any fool” can read the news because the work requires no “grandeur or skill”.

The University Challenge presenter who left Newsnight in 2014 after 25 years on the current affairs programme has belittled some of the highest-paid figures at the corporation.

Newsreaders feature prominently on the BBC list of top earners, which in 2020 included Mr Edwards with his £465,000 salary, and George Alagiah who is paid at least £325,000 a year.

But Mr Paxman, who has presenting experience on the Six O'clock News, said he sees no point in their roles and compared working from an Autocue to children learning to read.

“I think news reading is an occupation for an articulated suit,” he said during an online discussion.

“I can’t see any point in reading the news at all. Reading aloud, do you remember reading aloud at school? That’s what it is.

“I don’t think it has any grandeur or skill or anything to it. Any fool can do it.”

Huw Edwards is among the BBC's highest-paid figures
Huw Edwards is among the BBC's highest-paid figures

Newsnight’s former lead interviewer said the world is a better place for having the BBC, but added that it is “an immensely frustrating organisation”.

He said the corporation which employs 22,000 staff is “full of boring people doing dull jobs and pretending they’re important” which obstructs “its true mission” to make interesting programmes.

A BBC source said that the corporation was “too dull to comment” on Mr Paxman’s remarks.

They included claims that the corporation's problems are symptomatic of broader issues in his industry, with the presenter and author stating: “That’s the besetting problem with television, it’s full of vainglorious fools who want to be on telly instead of just letting the story tell itself.”

In an online discussion with comedian Richard Herring, Mr Paxman said that even in war reporting, egoism “switches the focus from whatever’s happening wherever you are to me, me, me”.

His criticism also covered interviewers, who he accused of “moving on to the next question on their notepad” when not given an answer by politicians, and stated the interrogatory role he made his own on Newsnight is “not complicated”.

Jeremy Paxman had a spell presenting the Six O'clock News before joining Newsnight
Jeremy Paxman had a spell presenting the Six O'clock News before joining Newsnight

The presenter has been involved in broadcasting since the 1970’s, first working at BBC Radio Brighton, before graduating to Tonight and Panorama.

He read the Six O’Clock News and presented BBC 1’s Breakfast Time, the first programme of its kind in the UK, before joining Newsnight in 1989.

Speaking via online video platform Twitch, the presenter conceded that the roles he has disparaged, yet filled early in his career, were necessary as “you’ve got to learn the job”.

Mr Paxman, who is paid through his own private company for BBC work, has further criticised the corporation for its handling of royal events compared to other broadcasters.

The presenter said that BBC protocols and alleged dress codes for coverage of the Royal Family, particularly its family tragedies, were “absolutely absurd”.

He added on past coverage of royal deaths: “The organisation was caught in this trap between recognising a news story and acting as mourner-in-chief. It got into a real muddle about it.”

The presenter has voiced critical opinions on his employer in the past, and earned a rebuke from the BBC in 2014 prior to his departure from Newsnight for claiming corporation colleagues were “smug”, and that playing the broadcaster's youth-focused station Radio 1Xtra in the lifts at Broadcasting House was “hell”.