Andrew Neil to host BBC's 'Despatch Box' replacement

By Paul Waugh,Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 02 November 2002 01:00

Andrew Neil, former editor of The Sunday Times, is to host a weekly political news programme as part of a shake-up of the BBC's coverage of Westminster.

Mr Neil will take up the post after failing to clinch a job to present Newsnightwith Jeremy Paxman and Kirsty Wark.

Gavin Esler, a former presenter on BBC News 24, got the job, pipping not just Mr Neil but also the columnist Matthew Parris and Rosie Boycott, former editor of The Independent on Sunday.

Mr Neil will be pleased to have won his own programme, which will run for 45 minutes and follow Question Time on BBC1 on Thursday nights. The show will assess the past week in Parliament.

Despatch Box, a late-night half-hour programme covering the day's events at Westminster, has been scrapped in a revamp of the corporation's coverage of politics. Mr Neil was a regular presenter.

The new presenter line-up is completed by the appointment of Kirsty Lang, a former Channel 4 News presenter, as the anchor on BBC4 news.

Richard Sambrook, director of BBC News said: "The appointment of Gavin, Kirsty and Andrew adds great strength to our presenting team. Their combined experience as broadcasters and journalists and popularity with viewers will add to the appeal of their respective programmes."

Mr Esler has been an anchor on BBC News 24 since 1997. He won a Royal Television Society award and has reported for news and documentary programmes in Europe, Russia, China and North and South America.

He became Washington correspondent in 1989, and chief North America correspondent a year later.

Mr Neil is one of the most experienced figures in the British media, having edited The Economist and The Sunday Times and helped to launch Sky Television. He has presented a number of media and political programmes for the BBC and other channels.

Ms Lang, who trained at the BBC, takes up her role after George Alagiah's move to the Six O'Clock News.

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