Global village prepares to welcome Andrew Neil

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The Independent Online
Andrew Neil, the combative former editor of the Sunday Times, has landed a major BBC chat show a year after his planned American prime time programme failed to materialise.

Uniquely, The Andrew Neil Show will be broadcast live both on BBC2 and on BBC World, the BBC's international information channel, which is said to be available in 49 million homes in 111 countries.

The show will start at 2.10pm on BBC2, when Mr Neil will interview a person involved in the big story of the day. From 2.30pm it will also go out on BBC World, with an interviewee of more global interest.

Viewers will be encouraged to "interact" with the show by sending in questions by e-mail, fax, phone or on the Internet. These will flash up on a computer in front of Mr Neil.

The former editor, who is presenting a second series of Is This Your Life? on Channel 4, said he was delighted to have clinched the show to run three times a week from 9 January. But he emphasised: "This is not a political show. We have to cover everything. I always see things in Sunday Times section terms, and I will cover everything from the style section to the news review."

He said the interviewees he would have asked to appear on the show yesterday were Jane Dunn-Butler, the luckless lady-in-waiting who mislaid the Duchess of York's diamonds; Julia Somerville, who has been cleared of wrong-doing over the photographs of her seven-year-old daughter; and the Duchess of York. For the global interview slot he would be looking for figures such as Jacques Chirac, the French president, James Hewitt, the former lover of the Princess of Wales, and Henry Kissinger.

Although the show is on daytime television, the 13-week contract is a prestigious one for Mr Neil, who has become a familiar face on television. Last Sunday he got the upper hand of Mrs Merton on her show, but in August he was criticised in a Times review of Is This Your Life? for over-aggression: "Cackling, Neil cranks the handle while flimsy celebrities such as Olivia Newton-John squeal, creak and dismember," it said.

Neil left Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation in November last year after a plan for him to front a high-profile current affairs show on Fox, the US national television network, broke down. Since then he has pursued a lucrative career as a freelance writer and broadcaster. He is also leading a consortium which has bid around pounds 250m for the Express newspaper group, although it seems unlikely that its owner, Lord Stevens, will wish to sell.

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