The News Quiz



Barry Norman (original host)

Simon Hoggart (1980-84)

Barry Took (1985-95)

Simon Hoggart (1996-2006)

Sandi Toksvig (2006-present)

Clive Anderson (stand-in, 23 February 2007)


Team captains (when used): Alan Coren, Richard Ingrams (until 1995), Francis Wheen (from 1996).

Regular panellists include: Alan Coren (-2007), Linda Smith (-2005), Francis Wheen, Andy Hamilton, Jeremy Hardy, Fred MacAulay, Sandi Toksvig, Armando Iannucci, Mark Steel.

Newsreaders include: Brian Perkins, Corrie Corfield, Peter Donaldson, Charlotte Green.


BBC Radio 4, 6 September 1977 to present


The original Wright Flyer of the topical news quiz genre, which later begat Have I Got News for You.

However, while we're now all flying around in our Airbus A380s, there lies the torn and tattered remains of the many failed prototypes. The original idea can be traced back to Nicholas Parsons, who suggested a topical quiz about "And Finally..."-style news stories, to be written by two brothers who were teachers from Highgate and featuring his friend Gyles Brandreth. This was turned into a pilot called Keep Taking the Tabloids by producer John Lloyd, but it was judged to be a complete disaster.

Yet, the idea of a quiz about the news itself felt that it had legs, as there hadn't been one since Ned Sherrin's Quiz of the Week. John Lloyd stripped the idea to its basics - it's a quiz about the news so call it The News Quiz, and have proper journalists as guests.

Compared to its more celebrated television counterpart, The News Quiz is quite rigidly structured. There are four questions in each round, generally worded in a mildly cryptic or punning fashion, each directed at an individual panellist, though conferring is allowed. The key similarity to HIGNFY (apart from being about the news) is that the questions are largely there to spark off comedic ramblings and no-one really cares about the scores. Once each round, there is a "musical clue", which tends to be of no help whatsoever, and only rarely of any comedic value either, and to be honest we're not sure why they bother.

Image:News quiz cast.jpgSuited and booted: Alan Coren, Francis Wheen, Simon Hoggart and Andy Hamilton. Defiantly casual: Jeremy Hardy and Linda Smith.

Between the rounds, the newsreader-in-residence reads clippings sent in by listeners. For years and years, these tended to be culled from the Shrdlu books by Denys Parsons, but that particular source seems to have been exhausted. Arguably the real-life clippings used nowadays aren't as funny, though there's still the odd gem.

At the end of the show, the teams are asked to read out further cuttings that "they'd brought with them" (supposedly). In recent years, they've done the decent thing and thanked the listeners for sending in their snippets rather than keep up their previous charade.

Key moments

Arguably, Charlotte Green at least partly owes her current cult status among R4 listeners to her habit of corpsing while reading out funny news stories, especially the bawdier items.


John Lloyd

Theme music

"The Typewriter" by Leroy Anderson.

Web links

BBC News Quiz site

Wikipedia entry

See also



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