Have I Got News for You
Have I Got News for You (HIGNFY) is a British television panel show produced by Hat Trick Productions for the BBC. Regularly broadcast since 1990, it is loosely based on the BBC Radio 4 show The News Quiz and has a topical and satirical remit.
|Have I Got News for You|
|Also known as||Have I Got a Bit More News for You (extended version)|
Have I Got Old News for You (repeats)
Have I Got a Bit More Old News for You (repeats of extended version)
|Genre||Comedy panel game|
|Created by||Harry Thompson|
|Presented by||Angus Deayton (1990–2002)|
Guest presenters (2002 onwards)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||58|
|No. of episodes||509 (as of 22 November 2019) (list of episodes)|
|Production location(s)||The London Studios (Series 1 to 55)|
Elstree Studios (Series 55 –)
|Running time||30 minutes (standard)|
40 minutes (extended)
|Production company(s)||Hat Trick Productions|
|Original network||BBC Two (1990–2000)|
BBC One (2000 onwards)
BBC One HD (2011 onwards)
|Picture format||576i 4:3 (1990–1998)|
576i 16:9 (1998–2010)
1080i 16:9 (2011 onwards)
|Original release||28 September 1990 –|
Have I Got News for You is often cited as beginning the increasing domination of panel shows in British TV comedy, and remains one of the genre's key standard-bearers. In recognition of this, the show received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2011 British Comedy Awards. It was the first time the honour had been bestowed upon a collective instead of an individual or double act. In 2016 they also received a BAFTA in the Comedy and Comedy Entertainment Programme category.
Have I Got News for You began on BBC2 on 28 September 1990 and transferred to BBC One in October 2000. "Myself and Ian, we did a disastrous pilot for it," Paul Merton said nine years later. "It was a beautiful summer's afternoon in 1990. Far too nice to be in a television studio, but I think the BBC had already bought it, so that's how it became a series."
Two series are made every year. At first, the number of episodes per series was inconsistent. However, a pattern soon formed at the start of series 3 in 1992 whereby the spring series between April and June comprises eight episodes and the autumn series from October to December contains nine, with a one-week break in the middle to allow the broadcasting of Children in Need.
For its first 10 years, the programme was shown on BBC Two. In 2000, the BBC moved its nightly BBC One news bulletin, the BBC Nine O'Clock News, from nine o'clock to ten o'clock (now known as the BBC News at Ten) after ITV moved their long-running ten o'clock bulletin, News at Ten, to eleven o'clock. This left a gap in the schedules, and Have I Got News for You was moved as a result to 9pm on Friday nights on BBC One.
The 39th series, broadcast in early 2010, moved the show to a Thursday night slot. The 40th series remained in this new time slot, despite one episode being broadcast the day after due to the Royal Variety Performance; both series featured an extra episode, with the spring series now featuring 9 episodes and the autumn series 10 episodes.
Over an hour's worth of material is recorded for each 30-minute programme for broadcast the following day, allowing the programme to remain topical while the BBC's lawyers have time to request cuts of potentially defamatory material. As for its popularity, Merton explained that it was mostly word-of-mouth: "No reviewer could possibly review it in that time. We started off with an audience of two million, and somebody might have mentioned it to their friend, and then it sort of built up a momentum of its own."
The late-night weekend repeat has occasionally contained extra material from the week's recording. This became a permanent feature from the spring 2007 series, with the repeat having a running time of 40 minutes, and being titled (in the TV listings) Have I Got a Bit More News for You.
The programme was originally recorded at the London Studios, former home of London Weekend Television, and as of the start of the autumn 2018 season (Series 56, episode 1) recording has now been moved to Elstree Studios. The 2001 Election special episode was recorded at BBC Television Centre on the Friday morning after the election. The quiz aspect and scores are largely ignored in favour of the panellists' witty exchanges and jokes, and the format seems to change frequently.
"There's been a lot of confusion, with people saying, 'Well, they see the questions beforehand,' which we do," revealed Merton in 1999. "But some people say we see the answers, which we don't, because that would rob it of being a quiz."
"There is a certain amount of show business that goes on in putting on a show," continued Merton. "We found very early on that it's worth seeing the questions beforehand so that you can work out your depth of ignorance. If you really don't know, you think, 'Well, I've really got to try and say something here.' It's much better to be doing that for ten or fifteen minutes before the show than be doing it when the cameras are rolling, in front of an audience, going, 'Well, who's he?'"
Norman Tebbit wrote an article in The Mail on Sunday criticising the whole programme: 'Well, of course Have I Got News for You is all edited. These people, they couldn't improvise live. You put them on a stage, they wouldn't be able to improvise.' Merton said of this: "Well, when Norman Tebbit said I couldn't improvise, I was... [blows out cheeks and then goes silent]."
The main section of the show comprises several rounds, although, as noted above, this is liable to change. Since the show originally aired, several rounds have been dropped from the original format, but a typical show will usually consist of the following:
- Round 1 is the "Film Round". Silent video clips, usually from news reports, are played to the teams. Two points are awarded for correctly identifying the story – but as the round covers the major stories of the week, the quiz aspect is downplayed here in favour of discussion and banter. The host will still ask questions to highlight details of a story, but no further points are awarded for the answers.
- Sometimes, the clips used have been specially chosen from particular sources, such as in the 2008 Christmas special, which used clips from Christmas specials of various other TV programmes to provide the clues. The 1993 'Thatcher special' presented a slight variation called Who Dares Loses?, where the teams had to identify who in the clip 'lost'.
- On rare occasions, sound is added to the clip, such as a "ker-ching" in the montage that depicted the 2009 MPs' expenses scandal or the Blue Peter theme tune in the week that presenter Richard Bacon had been caught taking drugs.
- The only occasion that the video clip element of this round has been deviated from was during series 37, when one of the clips was audio only with no pictures. The question was about the Hum, which none of the panel could hear anyway.
- Early series featured two similar games later in the show; the "Connections Round", with the panel identifying the individuals and the story that linked them, and the "Archive Round", featuring pre-1990 news footage in a 'what happened next?' format. Both were dropped as the more popular rounds began to use up more time.
- Round 2 was originally the "Tabloid Headlines Round", in which the panellists identified and commented on the more flippant stories of the week from sufficiently pun-filled tabloid headlines.
- Another of the original rounds later dropped was the similar "Mini-Headlines Round", where the panel had to identify a story from the four words used in the original tabloid report as effective chapter headings.
- In 2004, the headlines were filtered out and replaced with a picture game. An image is slowly revealed to the teams, the object being for one to buzz in before the other and guess how the resulting person or object is relevant to the week's news. Originally this took the form of the "Picture-Spin Quiz". Regular variants since have included the "Jigsaw of News" and the Christmas-themed "Giblets of News", while others have featured wieldy props for the host, such as the "Wheel of News", the "One-Armed Bandit of News" and the "Strengthometer of News". A few versions have been more specific to that week's guest host; e.g. Dominic West, star of American cop drama The Wire, had the "Squad Car of News".
- Occasionally the round is themed around one topic. In these instances, it usually becomes a more straightforward Q&A 'fingers-on-buzzers' round.
- Another slight variation is a spoof of an existing quiz/gameshow, often done when pertinent to the current guests. For example; a mock Mastermind game when Magnus Magnusson appeared or the infamous "Play Your Iraqi Cards Right" from Bruce Forsyth's first time as host, which took the format of the presenter's former game show, as well as referencing a special deck of cards produced by the Americans for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
- Round 3 is the "Odd One Out Round", where four personalities, characters and/or objects are presented to a team, whereupon they must identify the interloper, and the topical, amusing or ridiculously obscure link between the other three. In one episode, Merton's "Odd One Out" selection consisted of 16 images and in another, the round comprised four photos of Michael Howard. On another occasion the four choices were Hislop, Merton and both guests, Germaine Greer and Charles Kennedy. The four pictures used were the live remote feeds from the studio cameras. (This technique was also used in an episode hosted by Ronnie Corbett, when the comedian featured as one of the choices.) One week, after it had been revealed that a group of celebrities had taken out press injunctions, the round consisted of four blanked out images, with the host, Rhod Gilbert, explaining that they were unable to reveal who exactly was the odd one out, or the reason.
- A short-lived variant was another take on the aforementioned "Connections Round", with images of three people given, the teams working out what linked them.
- When Bruce Forsyth was host, this round was replaced by "Conveyer Belt Connections", a reference to the final round of The Generation Game. One of the belts consisted of people and objects whose resulting connection was that they had all been the Odd One Out in previous editions of the show. This included the disparate grouping together of raw sewage, The Hay Wain, Tinky Winky and Osama bin Laden.
- Round 4 is the "Missing Words Round", where newspaper headlines are displayed, with choice words blanked out. The panellists then suggest what these could be. Since 1994, a regular feature of this round is that some of the banners are taken from that week's choice of obscure "guest publication". Over the years, these have included Goat World, Arthritis News, International Car Park Design, "The Caravan Times" and Diarrhoea Digest. Examples of Missing Words are "I'll take Edward up the _____", "Church may be forced to sell _____" and "PM sucked into _____".
- After the final scores are read out, there is often an additional Caption Competition, where potentially amusing pictures are shown, to which the panellists are invited to provide an apt headline. No points are awarded for this section.
The original line-up, from 1990 to 2002, was Angus Deayton as chairman, with Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, and comedian Paul Merton as team captains. Each captain was accompanied by a guest, usually a politician, journalist or comedian, or somebody particularly relevant to recent news.
Merton took a break from Have I Got News for You during the 11th series in 1996, making only one appearance as a guest on Hislop's team. He was variously replaced as opposing team captain by Clive Anderson, Alan Davies and Eddie Izzard (with another two episodes featuring an equal-billing double act as the opponents of Hislop's team). Merton later explained that at the time he was "very tired" of the show and that he thought it had become "stuck in a rut". Nevertheless, he added that he felt his absence gave the programme the "shot in the arm" it needed and that it had been "better ever since".
In May 2002, following newspaper headlines of his sex with a prostitute and use of illegal drugs, Deayton was relentlessly ridiculed on the show by Hislop and Merton (along with guests Dave Gorman and Ken Livingstone). Following a second round of revelations about his private life later in the year, leading to further mockery, Deayton was fired in October, two shows into series 24.
At short notice, Merton hosted the first episode after Deayton's departure, and was described as "merciless" in his treatment of his former co-star. A series of guest hosts appeared for the remainder of the series, including Anne Robinson, Boris Johnson, and Jeremy Clarkson. Despite an initial search for a permanent successor to Deayton, having a different guest host each week proved successful, with average audience figures increasing from 6 million to 7 million. It was therefore announced in June 2003 that this feature would continue permanently.
Apart from Merton, there are twelve other people who have appeared as a panellist after being a guest host: Clive Anderson, Gyles Brandreth, Marcus Brigstocke, Jimmy Carr, Jeremy Clarkson, Alan Johnson (both of whom subsequently appeared as a guest host again), Charles Kennedy, Richard Madeley, Richard Osman, Robert Peston, John Prescott and Liza Tarbuck. The only guests to have also worked on the production off camera are Kevin Day and John O'Farrell who have both had stints on the writing team.
Guest appearance records
Alexander Armstrong holds the record for both most appearances as guest presenter, as well as most guest appearances in total, having appeared 32 times in the central chair. He has never appeared in any other role. Andy Hamilton holds the record for appearances as a guest panellist, with 24.
Guest appearance tallies
Many guests have appeared on the programme multiple times. The list below includes guests who have appeared as presenter or panellist, and does not include the two video-exclusive releases, Have I Got Unbroadcastable News for You and The Official Pirate Video, nor the various Comic Relief specials.
List complete up to 13 December 2019
Controversy and litigation
In 1993, in the final episode of series 5, The Rt Hon. Roy Hattersley (then an MP, having recently stepped down as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party) cancelled his appearance on the show at the last minute; the third time he had done so. Unable to find a suitable replacement at such short notice, they decided that Paul's guest would be a tub of lard instead, billed as 'The Right Honourable Tub of Lard MP'.
In a 1994 episode, Deayton read out the following: "The BBC are cracking down on references to Ian and Kevin Maxwell, in case programme-makers appear biased in their treatment of these two heartless, scheming bastards." However, the Maxwell brothers were about to go on trial, and on 26 July 1996, the BBC and Hat Trick Productions were fined £10,000 each in the High Court for contempt of court. The risky nature of the joke was readily apparent on the night itself, with Hislop and Merton humorously claiming that Deayton might genuinely have to prepare himself for a spell in prison because of it.
In 1996, a book based on the series, Have I Got 1997 for You, noted about Conservative MP Rupert Allason that "...given Mr Allason's fondness for pursuing libel actions, there are also excellent legal reasons for not referring to him as a conniving little shit". Allason then pursued a libel action against BBC Worldwide and Hat Trick Productions over the remark, but lost the case.
In November 1998, following a BBC edict restricting reporting about Peter Mandelson, the programme-makers responded by ridiculing the restriction throughout the episode. With limited opportunities for cuts before transmission, the whole episode was broadcast. The reporting edict continued to be ignored, attacked and flouted before being relaxed by the BBC two years later.
In April 2003, three-time guest panellist Stephen Fry announced that he was boycotting the show following the sacking of Angus Deayton. Fry described Deayton's disposal as "greasy, miserable, British and pathetic".
On 23 November 2007, Ann Widdecombe appeared as a guest host for the second time, with Jimmy Carr as Hislop's teammate. Due to Carr's risqué material, Widdecombe vowed she would never appear on Have I Got News for You again. She said, "His idea of wit is a barrage of filth and the sort of humour most men grow out of in their teens. There's no amount of money for which I would go through those two recording hours again. At one stage I nearly walked out." The following week, Will Self appeared as a guest. Self, one of the most frequent guests on HIGNFY, said that he would not appear on the show again either. He said, "I'm afraid that without the reality element, the programme has become just like any other pseudo-panel contest, where funny fellows sit behind desks cracking jokes. Moreover, in the post-Hutton Inquiry era, the BBC seems to have lost its bottle so far as edgy satire is concerned: the sharpest crack I made all evening — and the one that received the most audience laughter — was cut for transmission."
The edition of 26 April 2013 prompted over 100 complaints to the BBC and Ofcom for its perceived anti-Scottish stance during a section discussing Scottish independence. Ian Hislop had suggested Mars bars would become the currency of a post-independence Scotland, while guest host Ray Winstone added, "To be fair the Scottish economy has its strengths – its chief exports being oil, whisky, tartan and tramps."
In April 2018, both Hislop and Merton claimed in an interview for the Radio Times that female politicians were "too modest" to present the show. Merton said, "The producers always ask more women than men. More women say no... right from the early days, that’s been the case", while Hislop added, "And everyone you think should have been asked has been. Really, they really have... On the whole, women are slightly more reticent and think, maybe modestly, 'I can’t do that'." The quotes triggered a backlash with several female comedians challenging the show's producers to embrace gender equality, while Conservative MP Anna Soubry volunteered to appear as host.
The edition scheduled for 10 May 2019 was pulled due to the 2019 European elections. The BBC objected to the appearance of then leader of the political party Change UK, Heidi Allen, on the show during the election period. It finally aired a month later on 9 June 2019.
Four VHS videos were released, two containing specially made editions of the programme:
- Have I Got News For You, Volume 1 (1993), containing clips from the first five series plus the complete 1992 election night special. Also released on Video CD.
- Have I Got Unbroadcastable News For You (1995), featuring guests Eddie Izzard, Richard Wilson and a surprise appearance from Germaine Greer (specially produced).
- Classic Battles & Bust-Ups (1996), three full-length episodes featuring the Tub of Lard, Paula Yates and Germaine Greer, among others.
- Have I Got News For You: The Official Pirate Video (1997), featuring guests Martin Clunes and Neil Morrissey (specially produced).
The Very Best of Have I Got News For You (2002), a compilation of highlights from the first 12 years of the show, from the beginning up until the episode made after Deayton hit the tabloids. The running time is just over three hours long, and there are several hours of extras, including, among other things, running commentary of the whole presentation by Merton and Hislop. Also featured is a clip of Terry Wogan on Room 101, nominating the programme as one of his pet hates. In addition, interviews with political figures (taken from the Channel 4 Politics Awards) reveal their opinions on the series.
Have I Got News For You: The Best of the Guest Presenters (2003), which, as well as including the normal half-hour cut of Boris Johnson's first guest-hosting, also included a bonus disc, "The Full Boris", which showed a far longer cut of the same episode (lasting slightly under 60 minutes). Slightly longer versions of the shows featuring Martin Clunes, William Hague and Bruce Forsyth as chairman were also included, as well as a compilation of clips taken from other editions from the first two series with guest hosts (with only the episode hosted by Liza Tarbuck not represented). There are also several small extra features, including a discussion between Paul Merton and Boris Johnson regarding Johnson's appearance as presenter, filmed during his appearance as the celebrity guest on the Merton-hosted Room 101.
Have I Got News For You: The Best of the Guest Presenters Vol. 2 (2005), which is nearer in content to the first "Best of" DVD compilation than its direct predecessor. It contains four 45-minute compilations of the Autumn 2003, Spring 2004, Autumn 2004 and Spring 2005 series, rather than complete episodes; although it does again contain a bonus disc with an uncut version of Boris Johnson's second stint as presenter. This episode lasts about 80 minutes. "The A to Z of HIGNFY" is also included on the second disc. Each letter is used to stand for a different term or name often associated with the show, each highlighted by various example clips – except for the "problem letters" of X, Y and Z, which just lead into a selection of random outtakes. This feature also includes some behind-the-scenes content, with Marcus Brigstocke guiding the viewer around the studio and backstage, on a recording night.
During the late 1990s, the website haveigotnewsforyou.com, run in association with Freeserve, featured interactive versions of the show's games, including the missing words round and the caption competition, with prizes up for grabs.
Have I Got News for You started broadcasting a video podcast, The Inevitable Internet Spin-off, on 13 April 2007. It was initially planned to run for six series, from series 33 to 38, taking it to the end of 2009. Referred to as "webisodes", episodes are available via both the BBC iPlayer and YouTube.
From the beginning of Series 37, a new internet feature, Have I Got News for You, News... for You, was introduced. A short programme featuring typical opening and closing sequences (without the presence of a live audience) as well as other short sketches, it has so far been presented by Alexander Armstrong, and run fortnightly, bridging the gap between series 37 and 38.
Other shows based on the Have I Got News for You format
Similar shows based on the Have I Got News for You format exist in other countries:
- American weekly radio show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! was started in 1998 on public radio network NPR. Based in Chicago, the show follows a similar format with three panellists competing to win but no teams. They play some of the same games including fill in the missing headline, however many games are off limits due to their visual nature. Frequently the same stories are covered on both Wait Wait and Have I Got News for You. Differences include, listeners calling in to win mini games and a celebrity interview and quiz in the middle of the show. Wait Wait is more closely related to The News Quiz which is also the inspiration for Have I Got News for You.
- Dutch comedian Raoul Heertje appeared on the original Have I Got News for You in May 1995. A year later he became team captain in the newly launched Dutch version of the show: Dit was het nieuws ("This was the news"). On 19 December 2009, the last episode was broadcast. RTL ran new episodes between May 2011 and October 2015; in December 2017, the show returned to the public broadcaster AVROTROS.
- The Finnish version called Uutisvuoto ("newsleak") was broadcast for 20 years, 1998 - 2018 on Yle TV1, and was one of the most popular TV shows in Finland, and also the continuously longest running TV entertainment show in Finland. 2019 the show continued on MTV3 with its original host Peter Nyman.
- The Estonian version called Teletaip ("TV uptake"), first aired in 2000 on ETV and a total of seven series have been produced. Its two main hosts have been the comedian Tarmo Leinatamm and current MEP Indrek Tarand.
- In the US on 20 November 2009, NBC taped a pilot episode for an American version of the programme, with host Sam Seder and team captains Greg Giraldo and Michael Ian Black.
- The Swedish version called Snacka om nyheter ("Talk about news") was broadcast between 1995 - 2003 and 2008 - 2009.
- The Norwegian version called Nytt på nytt ("The news anew") has been aired on NRK on since 1999 and is the most popular show on Norwegian TV.
- The Very Best of Have I Got News for You (2002): DVD commentary
- Hat Trick Productions: VHS VC6587.
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- Leo McKinstry (13 September 2003). "I prefer the tub of lard". The Spectator.
- "Contempt of Court – 1996". Swarb.co.uk. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
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- Media Monkey (28 November 2007). "Widdecombe disgusted by Carr's 'filth'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
- Self, Will (4 December 2007). "Have I got news for you: TV satire's lost its teeth". Evening Standard. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
- "Ray Winstone calls Scots 'tramps' on TV quiz show". The Scotsman. Johnston Press. 1 May 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
- Caroline Davies (3 April 2018). "Women too modest to host Have I Got News For You, Hislop claims". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
- Caroline Davies (3 April 2018). "Ian Hislop and Paul Merton under fire for female host remarks". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
- "Have I Got News For You Heidi Allen episode pulled due to Euro elections". BBC News. 11 May 2019. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
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- "Dit was het Nieuws stopt na dertien jaar". Trouw. 23 July 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
- "Jan Jaap van der Wal en Peter Pannekoek naast Harm Edens in Dit was het nieuws". AVROTROS. 14 November 2017. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
- "Legendaarinen Uutisvuoto tekee paluun! Nähdään jatkossa MTV3-kanavalla". MTV3. 13 September 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
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- ""Nytt på nytt" tilbake" (in Norwegian). NRK. 11 January 2001. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
- Pedersen, Pål Fredrik (25 March 2017). "Nytt på nytt kåret til tidenes underholdningsprogram". Nytt på nytt kåret til tidenes underholdningsprogram (in Norwegian). TV 2. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
- Triffic Films, creators of the original opening animation.
- Have I Got News for You at BBC Programmes
- Have I Got News for You on IMDb
- Have I Got News for You at TV.com
- Have I Got A Bit More News for You
- Have I Got Old News for You
- Have I Got News for You at Hat Trick Productions
- Have I Got News for You at UKGameshows.com
- Have I Got New for Fou at epguides.com
- Have I Got News for You at the British Film Institute
- Have I Got News for You at British Comedy Guide
- TVWeek: American Adaptation
- Have I Got News for You Video Clips on BBC Comedy
- "Deayton in the lion's den". Jonathan Duffy, 24 May 2002. BBC News Online.