Robert Peston leaves BBC for ITV role

Robert Peston

Image caption

Peston’s informality has become a personal trademark

The BBC’s economics editor, Robert Peston, has been poached by rival broadcaster ITV, it has been confirmed, following days of speculation.

He will become ITV’s political editor, and present his own political interview programme, Peston on Sunday.

The correspondent made the announcement on his BBC blog, saying: “You may have noticed that I am off to another place”.

“Working for BBC News has been the high point of my working life,” he added.

Peston’s departure marks the end of a nine-year stint at the BBC, where he covered the financial crisis and broke the story of Northern Rock asking for emergency funding in 2007.

His new Sunday morning show will place him in direct competition with the BBC’s Andrew Marr.

Speaking earlier on Wednesday, Marr said he welcomed the challenge.

“If it’s true that he’s going to do a Sunday morning nine o’clock show directly against mine then on one level I say that’s fantastic, bring it on,” he told the Radio Times.

“Competition is good.”

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The reporter hosted an edition of Have I Got News For You earlier this year

But he also had a word of warning for his erstwhile colleague. “You have to absolutely subdue yourself and not think the programme’s about you because it never is,” he said.

“The Andrew Marr Show could be done by anybody if you get the right guests on it and you ask the right questions in the right order.”

‘Eccentric broadcaster’

Peston joined the BBC from the Sunday Telegraph in 2005, initially as the corporation’s business editor.

At first, he was mocked for his stilted delivery. The presenter’s idiosyncratic style was variously described as “strangulated”, “ragged and querulous” and like “a dalek” – but his reputation grew thanks to a series of scoops about the financial crisis.

“I think lots of people think I’m an eccentric broadcaster,” he told The Guardian in 2013.

But, he added: “I don’t really care what people think about my style, except in so far as it gets in the way of people understanding the story.

“If I felt I was not communicating the important stuff in a way people can understand, I would worry.”

In recent years, he has presented satirical quiz show Have I Got News For You and a one-off edition of Newsnight.

He admitted he wanted to replace Jeremy Paxman on the latter programme, but was “never really in the frame for it”.

Earlier this year in an interview with the Radio Times, which first reported his departure for ITV, Peston said he was looking for “another big challenge”.

He said: “I love the BBC. I genuinely don’t know… I mean, going from print journalism to the BBC was a big change, and I sort of feel that I wouldn’t mind another big change, but I haven’t the faintest idea what it would be.”

As rumours of his departure circulated last week, several of Peston’s BBC colleagues recorded a spoof “appeal”, begging him to stay.

Among them was Radio 4 presenter Eddie Mair, who said he was “prepared to sell my kidney if it increases the amount of money the BBC can afford to offer.”

Announcing Peston’s appointment on Wednesday, ITV’s head of news, Michael Jermey said: “We’re delighted Robert is joining ITV. His distinctive and intelligent approach to journalism will fit well with ITV’s news and current affairs output.

“Peston on Sunday will offer viewers a fresh and distinctive approach to political discussion at the weekend.”

The BBC’s head of news, James Harding, added: “Robert is an exceptional journalist and broadcaster who has broken some of the most important stories of the last decade. He has brought a singular insight to difficult and complex issues and he has a style – not to mention a hairstyle – all of his own.

“We’ll all miss him.”

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