The World Tonight

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The World Tonight
GenreNews, current events, and factual
Running time45 minutes weekdays from 10 pm
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Home stationBBC Radio 4
Hosted byRitula Shah
Edited byAlistair Burnett
Recording studioBBC Television Centre (until Dec 2012)
Broadcasting House
(Dec 2012 onwards)
Original release6 April 1970 – present

The World Tonight is a British current affairs radio programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4, every weekday evening, which started out as an extension of the 10 pm news. It features news, analysis and comment on domestic and world issues. Ritula Shah is currently the main presenter, usually presenting the first three days of the week. The programme utilises other BBC broadcasters including David Eades, Carolyn Quinn, James Coomarasamy, Roger Hearing, Samira Ahmed and Felicity Evans to regularly present on Thursdays, Fridays and in Shah's absence. Between 1989 and 2012, the main presenter was Robin Lustig.


The World Tonight was first broadcast on 6 April 1970, starting on the same day as the PM Programme[1]. It was introduced following the changes at Broadcasting House which ushered in Radio 1, to create "the serious current affairs programme of the day" on the new Radio 4, as one survivor recalls.

Broadcast live at 10 pm, initially for only thirty minutes, its tone was set by presenter Douglas Stuart, a former Washington and Bonn correspondent for the BBC. The first edition contained interviews on Northern Ireland and relations between West Germany and the United States. Later that week, ideas for better government in Scotland and peace in the Middle East were featured.

Its focus on international news was set early on by events in Washington surrounding Watergate. The US time zone (five hours behind the UK) meant that the programme could bring up to the minute developments at 10 pm. Its first reporters came from within the ranks of the programme's own producers, which meant that packages or features were cut from a different cloth than standard news reports. Today's World Tonight reporters may not have come from the same stable but the emphasis on perceptive, contextual reporting has remained.

Presenters with strong journalistic credentials, including John Tusa, Anthony Howard, Richard Kershaw, Isabel Hilton and Robin Lustig, have secured and maintained the programme's reputation for authoritative coverage.

Other notable former staffers include Dominic Lawson, former editor of The Sunday Telegraph, Jim Gray, former editor of Channel 4 News, Jonathan Freedland of The Guardian, and Henry Kelly.

Veterans recall the traditionally 'relaxed' figure of the editor. The laissez faire approach of the boss over the years created a culture in which Output Editors, responsible for daily editions, were able to take risks, some of which have led to notable scoops, such as the predicted arrest on war crimes charges of General Augusto Pinochet in 1998.

A staple of the Radio 4 schedule for over four decades, 2013 figures showed The World Tonight has retained 1.75 million listeners, representing 17.8% of the national radio audience at 10 pm.[2]

In popular culture

  • In the 1968 science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey, The World Tonight is depicted as a television news programme on channel "BBC-12". During the programme, a reporter named Martin Amer (played by actor Mike Lovell) interviews the crew of Discovery-1 on a voyage to Jupiter. The overall host of the show, who leads into the interview segment, is played by Kenneth Kendall.
  • In the first ever episode of BBC mockumentary comedy programme The Thick of It, Secretary of State for Social Affairs, Hugh Abbott (played by actor Chris Langham), speaks live to presenter Robin Lustig on The World Tonight late after office hours, in order to try and rectify a blunder that has played out across the day regarding the multiple U-turns on whether or not they are announcing the department's new 'Anti-Benefit Fraud Executive' (colloquially named 'Snooper Force'). Abbott, however, worsens the situation by panicking and calling it the 'Sponge Avengers', and then having the interview drowned out by a nearby cleaner who is hoovering.



Ritula Shah, the main presenter, usually presents Monday–Wednesday. Since 2012 the programme has used a roster of broadcasters to host at other times.

Years Presenter Current role
2009–present Ritula Shah Main presenter
?–present David Eades Frequent presenter
?–present Carolyn Quinn
?–present Shaun Ley
?–present James Coomarasamy
?–present Samira Ahmed Occasional presenter
?–present Philippa Thomas
?–present Felicity Evans
?–present Roger Hearing
?–present Bridget Kendall
2015–present Chris Mason



  • Roger Sawyer
  • Alistair Burnett
  • David Stevenson (Acting Editor for 2 years)
  • Prue Keely
  • Prue Keely & Jenni Russell (Joint Editors)
  • Ann Koch
  • Margaret Budy
  • Blair Thompson
  • Ken Goudie
  • Jonathan Fenton-Fischer



  • Beth McLeod
  • Paul Moss


  • Jonty Bloom, The World Tonight's economics and Europe correspondent.


  • In 2011, The World Tonight was nominated for a Sony award for Best News & Current Affairs Programme.
  • In 2009, Jonty Bloom won the Royal Statistical Society award for Statistical Excellence in Journalism.
  • In 2006, Paul Moss won the Foreign Press Association's award for Environment Story of the Year for his reports on the environmental impact of India's economic growth
  • In 2006 & 2004 Jonty Bloom's reporting on business and economics won the World Tonight the Wincott Foundation award, for radio programme of the year.
  • In 1998, Robin Lustig won a Sony Silver award as Talk/News Broadcaster of the Year.
  • In 1992, Robin Lustig was awarded a Gold Medal at the New York Radio Festival for a special edition of The World Tonight broadcast live from Moscow on the last day of the Soviet Union

See also

  1. Today, Radio 4's early morning stablemate to the World Tonight programme.
  2. The World At One, Radio 4's lunchtime stablemate to the World Tonight Programme.
  3. PM, Radio 4's early evening stablemate to the World Tonight programme.


  1. ^ The World Tonight, 6 April 2020, 50 years after the first broadcast, with references to the anniversary at the start and from 42:57
  2. ^ Robin Lustig's BBC Blog

External links

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