Nick Higham, presenter of the BBC News' weekly "Meet the Author" programme, is leaving the show in January after six years.
The programme will continue to run in a similar format with new presenters James Naughtie, books editor for BBC News, and arts correspondent Rebecca Jones, The Bookseller understands. It will also be given the opportunity to reach new audiences on Radio 4’s "Today" programme, in addition to its weekly slot on the BBC News Channel.
Higham (pictured) made the “personal decision” to go in order to 'free up more time' as a BBC home news correspondent, a position he has held for the past 10 years alongside his role as presenter for "Meet the Author". Higham will now have an extra two days a week on average to devote to home news following his departure, he said.
A spokesperson for the BBC News Channel said: “After six years at the helm of 'Meet the Author' Nick Higham has made the decision to leave the programme. We are, of course, very sorry to see him go, but happy to confirm that 'Meet the Author' will continue to run weekly on the News Channel as part of the BBC’s wider commitment to literature.”
Sam Taylor, UK 24/7 editor and head of the BBC News Channel, said: “Nick has been a tremendous champion of books and literature on the BBC News Channel and a brilliant presenter of 'Meet the Author' over the past six years attracting the highest calibre of authors. It is a huge weekly commitment so; although we are sad to see him go, we completely understand his decision to focus on his main role reporting on major UK stories for BBC News. We are delighted that the programme will be continuing with books editor for BBC News James Naughtie and arts correspondent Rebecca Jones regularly at the helm, and that these interviews will be reaching a new audience in a regular slot on Radio 4’s "Today" programme.”
Higham was encouraging of the BBC's decision to continue the programme, "since," Higham said "as far as I know, this is the only regular bit of regular books coverage on BBC television".
On deciding to leave, he added: “It was a personal decision. I am one of the BBC’s home news correspondents and ['Meet the Author'] is quite a substantial commitment in time. Effectively I act as my own producer, I fix all the interviews, I read all the books, I book the studios, I am involved in editing the pieces and so on. And we do specials: we do things around interviews with shortlisted authors at some of the awards. We interview all the contenders for the Costa Book Award. And put all those out in one week... So there’s a lot of work and it takes quite a lot of time.
"I’ve been doing it for six years. It’s very enjoyable and interesting work, you read very good books and talk to fascinating authors - but it is quite a lot of work. My profile in the organisation, inside the news operation, is less high than it used to be because of the time spent doing the 'Meet the Author', which means I’m often not available and not doing as many stories as I might have done. I think it’s time to let somebody else have a go, basically.”
Higham, a former BBC’s arts and media correspondent, had the chance to meet some of his "idols" while on the show, such as Hilary Mantel, Thomas Kenneally, William Boyd and Carol Ann Duffy. Other highlights for Higham have included "the privilege of meeting some truly impressive people", citing authors Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first woman president; Alan Johnson, Edmund de Waal and John McCarthy; as well as hearing "profoundly moving stories". In the last year alone, he spoke to Rotherham abuse victim Sarah Wilson and Asne Seierstad, who wrote about Anders Breivik and the massacre at Utoya.
Higham concluded: "The thing I will miss is all these wonderful books which arrive, or emails touting books, and you just think ‘Ahhh, I can’t wait to read that!' The problem is that I [feature] four or five authors a month and we are probably offered 20 or 30 a month, and just getting through the lists of titles in The Bookseller…there are many more that one would want to read, and the frustrating thing is being sent these books and not having time to read them.
"One of the things I’m looking forward to – quite genuinely – is I have huge piles of books published in the last few years, which I want to read, just sitting at home and I have not had time to read – because I end up reading one or two books a week for work: and I am really looking forward to that! That’s what’s going to be really good about this new arrangement."
Fans can expect to see more of Higham on both news and feature programmes on Radio 4.