Have I Got News For You is a UK television panel game, on the subject of news, politics and current affairs. Produced by Hat Trick Productions for the BBC It is a comedy programme rather than a serious game show: the banter between the guests and the sardonic remarks are more important than the scores, which are only ever briefly referred to. The format is loosely based on that of a popular radio show, The News Quiz.
HIGNFY, as it is commonly known, began on BBC2 on September 28 1990, and transferred to BBC1 in October 2000. Two series of (usually) eight episodes are made each year. It is taped on Thursday evening for broadcast on Friday, allowing the satire to remain fresh while the BBC's lawyers have time to request cuts of potentially libellous material. The show likes to cultivate a reputation for sailing close to the wind on matters of libel; it is a tradition on the show that particularly scurrilous accusations are suffixed with "...allegedly" (in the style of British satirical magazine Private Eye). This phrase has permeated popular British culture to the extent that it has now become something of a cliché. In 1998 BBC Worldwide and Hat Trick Productions were sued by Conservative MP Rupert Allason for producing a book based on the series (Have I Got 1997 For You) which described him as a "conniving little shit". Mr Allason lost the case.
The original line-up was: Angus Deayton as chair, Private Eye editor Ian Hislop and comedian Paul Merton as team captains. Each team is completed by a guest member each week, often a politician or journalist on one side and a comedian on the other. Merton took a break from the show during the eleventh series in 1996, making only one appearance as a guest on Hislop's team.
In 2002, allegations linking Deayton with prostitutes and drug use appeared in UK tabloids. Merton and Hislop teased Deayton about these allegations on the show, and Deayton did not deny them. On October 29 2002 Deayton was asked to resign from the show. Merton hosted the first episode after Deayton's departure, and a series of guest hosts appeared for the rest of the series. It was announced in June 2003 that in future HIGNFY would use guest hosts on a permanent basis, as the average audience had increased from 6 million in Deayton's last series to 7 million. Former Conservative Party leader William Hague and actor Martin Clunes received particular praise for their work as guest hosts.
The shows are often recycled as repeats under the title Have I Got Old News For You. They are usually also shown (in a later time slot and on BBC2) on the day after their initial broadcast. In November 2003 these Saturday editions were expanded to 40 minutes in length, with the addition of material cut out of the Friday programme, and titled Have I Got A Little Bit More News For You.
High points of the show:
- after Jeffrey Archer was convicted of perjury, Hislop referred to him as "Jeffrey Archer, the liar" at every available opportunity.
- when ex-MI5 agent David Shayler was a guest on the show, a large television set was placed on the desk, showing him in a studio elsewhere - supposedly in Paris, where he was in hiding from Official Secrets Act charges.
- when Roy Hattersley didn't bother to appear for the June 4 1993 episode, he was replaced with a tub of lard, as "they possessed the same qualities and were liable to give similar performances". It was later announced that the tub of lard had been booked for a return appearance, though this turned out to be a ruse to disguise the appearance on the show of Salman Rushdie. The tub of lard was on the same team as Merton, and they won - much to the chagrin of Hislop.
- Salman Rushdie almost didn't get to be on the show. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had put a fatwa on him and Rushdie had to live in hiding under constant police guard. When asked if it was possible for Rushdie to do a quizshow they at first refused, but when they heard it was HIGNFY they changed their minds because they liked the show. Rushdie later said his son was more impressed that he had been on HIGNFY that of anything else he had done.
- Hislop's teasing of Paula Yates led her to label him the "sperm of the devil" (presumably meaning to say "spawn of the devil").
- when Sir Elton John failed to appear as billed, he was replaced by a "look-alike" called Ray (apparently a taxi driver) who made no verbal contribution.
- when forced to apologise to Ernest Saunders for suggesting his bout of Alzheimer's, which got him released from prison (after 10 months of a five year sentence) and from which he had subsequently recovered, seemed a little too convenient, the show (via Angus) added that Saunders was a swindler and con-artist. As Saunders had been originally jailed for fraud, he could hardly complain again.