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Paxman savages BBC over changes to news

JEREMY PAXMAN launched a stinging attack on the BBC's governors yesterday for drastic changes planned for Newsnight and the Six O'Clock News.

Both programmes are to be altered to meet the governors' demands for more regional coverage, especially of Scotland. But according to Mr Paxman, who presents Newsnight, they are "the worst idea they could possibly have come up with as a solution to a political problem".His colleague Kirsty Wark also came out strongly against the proposal to introduce opt-outs to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales 30 minutes into Newsnight's 45- minute slot. "It is essential that BBC Scotland has its own late-night programme," she said yesterday, "but I am absolutely against the dismantling of Newsnight."

Other BBC insiders criticised the governors for interfering so drastically with the content of the two programmes. "Constitutionally, they really should not be doing this," said a BBC manager, "and not nearly enough attention has been paid to their interference."

The changes to the Six O'Clock News were detailed earlier this week. The programme will include opt-outs to the national regions. "It's a dog's breakfast and does nothing to satisfy BBC Scotland's demands for its own Scottish Six," according to a journalist in the BBC Scotland newsroom.

The interference with Newsnight is seen as an equally serious threat. BBC insiders are concerned that it will "meddle with the fabric of the programme". They say it will drastically curtail its ability to run interviews at length at the last minute, or to make longer reports. The general view is that "it shows a complete lack of understanding of Newsnight and the way it works".

Current negotiations include a proposal for Wales and Northern Ireland to opt out of the main programme for six and a half minutes, and then opt back in again - a procedure that producers regard as a nightmare to implement.