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, which premiered on 28 September 1990. The programme, loosely based on the BBC Radio 4 show The News Quiz, focuses on four panellists divided into two teams – captained by Ian Hislop and Paul Merton – answering questions on various news stories on the week prior to an episode's broadcast. However, the programme's format focuses more on the topical discussions on the subject of the news stories related to questions, and the satirical humour derived from these by the teams. As a result, the style of presentation had a profound impact on panel shows in British TV comedy, making it one of the genre's key standard-bearers.
|Have I Got News for You|
|Also known as||HIGNFY|
Have I Got a Little Bit More News for You
Have I Got a Bit More News for You
Have I Got Old News for You
Have I Got a Bit More Old News for You
|Genre||Comedy panel game|
|Created by||Harry Thompson|
|Presented by||Angus Deayton (1990–2002)|
Guest presenters (2002–)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||61|
|No. of episodes||535 (as of 12 April 2021[update]) (list of episodes)|
|Production locations||The London Studios (1990–2017)|
Elstree Studios (2018–2019)
Riverside Studios (2020–)
|Running time||29 minutes|
42 minutes (extended)
|Production company||Hat Trick Productions|
|Original network||BBC Two (1990–2000)|
BBC One (2000–)
|Picture format||576i 4:3 (1990–1999)|
576i 16:9 (1999–2010)
1080i 16:9 (2011–)
|Audio format||Stereo (1990)
Dolby Surround (1991-2002)Dolby Digital (2003-)
|Original release||28 September 1990 –|
The programme aired on BBC Two for its first ten years, before moving to BBC One in 2000 for future series. In 2003, extended episodes titled Have I Got a Little Bit More News for You and later simply Have I Got a Bit More News for You featuring additional content began broadcasting the following Saturday on BBC Two, later moved to Monday on BBC One and returned to BBC Two in 2021. Subsequent repeats are named Have I Got Old News for You or Have I Got a Bit More Old News for You. Until 2002, Have I Got News for You was hosted by Angus Deayton, until his sacking following several scandals about his private life in national newspapers. Since then, the programme has been hosted by various celebrities, many of them adding their own comedy.
The programme gained recognition for its performance on British television and comedy, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2011 British Comedy Awards and the 2016 BAFTA Television Award for Comedy and Comedy Entertainment Programme.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (May 2019)
Have I Got News for You was initially conceived as a pilot for the BBC called John Lloyd's Newsround. After filming the pilot, John Lloyd decided not to proceed as the chairman, and the job fell to comedian Angus Deayton, with team captains Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, and comedian Paul Merton returning from the pilot. The BBC commissions two series each year, with the first airing in October 1990; the number of episodes being finalised to set amounts between the Spring series, aired from April to June, and the Autumn series, aired from October to December, with the latter taking a small hiatus for a week to allow for the broadcasting of Children in Need.
For the first ten years of its broadcast, the programme was aired on BBC Two. During this period Hislop would be the longest-serving member of the three on the programme since its premiere. He has not missed a single episode. Merton took a break during the 11th series in 1996, having become "very tired" of the show and that he thought it had become "stuck in a rut". His absence led to his role being assigned to celebrity guests, with Merton himself returning as a guest on Hislop's team. Merton returned for the following series as team captain, deeming that his absence had given the programme the "shot in the arm" it needed and that it had been "better ever since".
By 2000, the BBC made a decision to relocate its late evening news bulletin from nine o'clock to ten o'clock, after ITV moved their long-running ten o'clock bulletin to eleven o'clock. The resulting move caused a gap in its schedule that needed filling, effectively leading to Have I Got News for You being moved to BBC One and granted access to a broader audience in October that year. In 2002, Deayton was caught using illegal drugs and soliciting sex with a prostitute – a fact that he was ridiculed for on the programme, after it became headlines – putting his private life under scrutiny by news media outlets. Further scandal effectively forced the BBC to terminate Deayton's contract with them two episodes into the programme's 24th series.
At short notice, Merton hosted the first episode after Deayton's departure, with a series of guest hosts appearing 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, leading to it becoming a permanent feature in the programme's format in June 2003.
Between 1990 and its spring season in 2018, the programme was recorded at London Studios, the former home of London Weekend Television; it briefly was recorded at BBC Television Centre for a 2001 Election special, the Friday after the elections were completed. Since the 2018 Autumn series, recording is conducted at Elstree Studios, although the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom in 2020 impacted production of series during that time. The spring series saw Hislop, Merton, and the celebrities for each episode filming episodes virtually from their own homes, against a superimposed CGI recreation of the studio. In contrast, the autumn and 2021 spring series were filmed at Riverside Studios in London under safety measures to prevent the spread of infection, which included socially distancing panellists and host with screens while on set. Initially audience numbers were reduced – half those attending each recording being allowed in the studio, and the other half watching the recording in the studio's cinema – but upon the British government implementing a second lockdown, all remaining episodes in the series would be recorded with a virtual audience.
Episodes are usually set to around 30 minutes in length, and are edited from the footage taken from a longer recording session by those involved the day before an episode is broadcast. The time frame given is used to allow the programme to retain the topical elements that an episode will feature, while allowing for any potentially defamatory material to be cut by the BBC's team of lawyers to avoid legal issues. The focus on each episode is on four panellists – the show's two regulars, and two guests – split between two teams, answering questions related to topical items in the news that occurred within the previous week, but the format often forgoes this aspect and the scoring system in favour of the panellists' witty exchanges, jokes, and satirical discussions on the question's relevant news item.
Each episode consists of a general format that is largely unchanged since the programme first premiered. All begin with an introduction by the host, who gives out a set of satirical, fictional comedic news stories that are often accompanied with a video clip from news programmes or general public recordings to provide the joke, followed by introductions of the episode's guest panellists. After this, the episode focuses on four rounds that generally follow the same arrangement:
- Round 1 – dubbed the "Film Round" – begins after the introductions and sees each team being shown a collection of video clips – all featuring no sounds – consisting of news reports, archive footage and dramatized scenes, and must detail the news story that they have relevance to. The item in question tends to be a major news story, and avoids any notable pieces that consist of tragic events such as terrorist attacks that would be deemed offensive to use for comedic purposes. The round usually includes additional questions and sometimes a bonus round for comedic purposes. On some occasions the round has had some deviations in arrangement, such as a team being given a series of audio clips with no pictures and identifying the news item it was focused on.
- Round 2 focuses on discussions and questions on other news items. Between 1990 and 2004, the questions focused on newspaper headlines that panellists had to identify the story it was linked to. After 2004, the round focused on images that would be revealed to panellists in different manners, which they had to reveal the story about – in this arrangement, the programme frequently made use of props and graphic effects to reveal such images, with the round being labelled per the manner the picture was revealed, and include: "Jigsaw of News" – image revealed in jigsaw pieces; the "One-Armed Bandit of News" – picture revealed on slot machine reels, with the host pulling a lever to spin them; and the "Strengthometer of News" – host uses a mallet to hit a high striker pad, with the meter stopping at an image that is then enlarged.
- Round 3 focuses on panellists given four personalities, characters and/or objects, in which they must define the link that connects three of these, and point out the item that is the odd one out in this regard. The number of "odd one outs" that are given in the round vary depending on what production staff arrange, but usually consist of a single question.
- Round 4 focuses on a headline from newspapers and a guest publication, in which a choice selection of words is blanked out, and the panellists must suggest what these could be. Often or not, the panellists never give the right answer, and the round is mainly focused on what comedic line could be spun from the headline, based on what words are left visible. For example, a comedian could fill in the blank for the following – "Church may be forced to sell _____" – with something that would be considered highly unlikely and bizarre to read about.
After the rounds are completed, the host then gives out the scores, denoting which team is the winner. If time permits, the episode may feature a bonus round called the "Caption Competition", in which panellists are given a single or two pictures to make amusing captions to. The episode will always conclude with the host making an additional set of satirical, fictional comedic news stories, accompanied by a picture to provide the joke; in rare cases, an video clip may be used.
A repeat with a running time of 40 minutes, titled Have I Got a Bit More News for You, is often aired on the weekend, and features additional content cut from the original episode, and can often include scenes and outtakes made during the show before the opening credits or after the ending credits.
The format of Have I Got News for You is derived from the comedy that can be generated by the guests that participate in the programme, whether as a panellist or host. Although the show features a variety of comedians, it has also included politicians, television personalities, actors and news media personalities, several of whom have appeared more than once. As of 16 October 2020, Alexander Armstrong has appeared most often as a guest, mainly as the host, while Andy Hamilton has appeared most often as a guest panellist.
On rare occasions the programme has had a participant cancel or otherwise be unable to appear. Production staff try to find a replacement, but this is not easy at short notice. For an episode in 1993, nobody could find a suitable replacement for Roy Hattersley (then an MP, having recently stepped down as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party) after he cancelled at the last minute. He was replaced by a tub of lard. The programme compared Hattersley and the tub of lard, and claimed "they possessed the same qualities and were liable to give similar performances".
Criticism, controversy and litigation
Throughout its broadcast history, Have I Got News for You has drawn considerable criticism from guests, politicians and viewers about its content, sometimes ending in court.
- In 1994, an episode included a joke about Ian and Kevin Maxwell, who were awaiting trial. The joke purported to be about a crackdown by the BBC on references to the Maxwells, before ending on the line "these two heartless, scheming bastards". The nature of the joke became the subject of a case in the High Court against the BBC and Hat Trick Productions, which found both guilty of contempt of court and fined them each £10,000.
- In January 1998, BBC Worldwide And Hat Trick Productions defended a libel case brought by Conservative MP Rupert Allason, after a book based on the autumn series, titled Have I Got 1997 for You, contained a remark about the politician being "a conniving little shit".
- In November 1998, producers ridiculed a BBC edict restricting reporting about Peter Mandelson by mocking it throughout filming of an episode that was broadcast without any elements being edited out. The programme continued to ridicule, ignore and flout the reporting edict – alongside several other shows – before the BBC relaxed it 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".
- In November 2007, Ann Widdecombe criticised the programme for the involvement of Jimmy Carr as Hislop's teammate, vowing not to appear again after admitting she nearly "walked out" because of the comedian's risqué material during recording.
- The following week, Will Self, a frequent guest, announced he would not return. His reasons focused on the programme becoming more "like any other pseudo-panel contest, where funny fellows sit behind desks cracking jokes", criticising the BBC for cutting a joke he made despite the fact it was well-received by the audience.
- In April 2013, the programme received over 100 complaints for an episode that involved discussions on a news article on Scottish independence. The focus of the complaints was on comments deemed to promote anti-Scottish sentiment, made by Hislop and by guest host Ray Winstone, who joked that the Scottish economy relied chiefly on exporting "oil, whisky, tartan and tramps".
- In April 2018, producers received backlash from several female comedians over the lack of gender equality, following comments made by Hislop and Merton during an interview for the Radio Times, in regards to how production staff approached several prominent women for the role of guest host.
- In May 2019, the BBC had to pull an episode as it featured Heidi Allen, then leader of the political party Change UK, who was standing in that month's European elections. The episode was broadcast in the June.
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, 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.[circular reference] In 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.
- Triffic Films, creators of the original opening animation.
- The Very Best of Have I Got News for You (2002): DVD commentary
- Hat Trick Productions: VHS VC6587.
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- Media Monkey (28 November 2007). "Widdecombe disgusted by Carr's 'filth'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
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- "Ray Winstone calls Scots 'tramps' on TV quiz show". The Scotsman. Johnston Press. 1 May 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
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