Newsnight could be axed after 32 years as Lord McAlpine and Jimmy Savile crises engulf the BBC

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  • Lord Patten to meet acting director general Tim Davie to decide if it will be axed after 32 years

By Martin Robinson

PUBLISHED: 08:37 EST, 12 November 2012 | UPDATED: 10:01 EST, 12 November 2012

Future: Lord Patten leaves his home today and admits that the future of Newsnight is in doubt

Future: Lord Patten leaves his home today and admits that the future of Newsnight is in doubt

The future of Newsnight is hanging in the balance after Lord Patten admitted its botched report that falsely accused Tory peer Lord McAlpine of being a paedophile could see it scrapped after 32 years.

The BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten and acting director general Tim Davie will meet today to discuss if the programme can survive the corporation's crisis.

Newsnight was first broadcast in January 1980 but in the past year it has been badly damaged by its decision not to run an investigation into Jimmy Savile's abuse of children and now the smearing of Lord McAlpine.

When Lord Patten was asked if the show will survive he said: 'That's one of the things we will be discussing with the acting director-general today.

'I think one of the things that should survive is the investigative journalism which it has represented along with Panorama.

'At the heart of our news offering has to be uncompromising investigative journalism but you have to get it right.'

John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture and media select committee, said: 'Newsnight has been very badly damaged by this, and maybe it will need to re-branded. But the BBC will need to continue to have a flagship news and current-affairs programme'

Newsnight has already been wounded by its decision not to air an investigation it commissioned last year into the criminal activities of the late Jimmy Savile.

Last month, following a decision by ITV to screen the allegations, Newsnight editor Peter Rippon 'stepped aside' pending the outcome of a review by Nick Pollard.

Two more senior BBC staff today 'stepped aside' at the crisis-hit Corporation as the fallout continues after a botched Newsnight investigation.

Then and now: Newsnight started in January 1980 with Peter Snow (left during first show) and is now presented by stars including Jeremy Paxman

BBC News director Helen Boaden and her deputy Stephen Mitchell follow Newsnight editor Peter Rippon, who also 'stepped aside' last month following a shelved probe into Jimmy Savile's sex abuse.

Meanwhile stalwart presenter  Jeremy Paxman provoked fears he will quit Newsnight.

 

The fiery presenter blamed 'cowards and incompetents' for the departure of director general George Entwistle as he damned a culture of 'timeserving' and 'biddable' managers.

His embittered response raised fears that he will leave the programme, where he is known for his combative questioning and refusal to tolerate evasive politicians.

Even staff on the programme are beginning to question whether it will be able to survive the crisis.

One BBC insider asked whether, following two separate reviews into the programme, 'it would be the kind of brand you want to be associated with'.

Others believe a brief suspension is possible – until at least after Christmas – while the mess is cleared up and a new team installed.

Former Newsnight presenter Peter Snow said last night: 'It is a brilliant programme. It produces wonderful stuff and has done successfully for 32 years. To end Newsnight would be absurd. But I'm afraid Newsnight have made mistakes and of course they are going to have to suffer for that.'

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