David Dimbleby is to leave Question Time, the BBC’s flagship politics programme, at the end of the year, the broadcaster has announced.
Dimbleby, who has chaired the debate show since taking over from Sir Robin Day around 25 years ago, said it was the “right moment to leave”, adding he will return to his “first love” of reporting.
The 79-year-old is the longest-serving presenter of Question Time, and was preceded by Peter Sissons and Robin Day.
His decision leaves a vacancy for one of the most prestigious jobs at the corporation, with contenders likely to include A-listers including Huw Edwards. Nick Robinson, Emily Maitlis and Victoria Derbyshire and rising stars, such as Emma Barnett.
Dimbleby said: “At the end of the year I will have been chairing Question Time for a quarter of a century and I have decided that this is the right moment to leave.
“It has been a privilege to work for a programme which brings voters face to face with those in power.
“I am grateful to the production teams and to the BBC who have made this possible.
He added: “It has been exhilarating following the twists and turns of British politics from John Major in 1994, through the Blair and Brown years to Cameron and May.
“I am not giving up broadcasting. Instead, after years in the studio, I now plan to return to my first love: reporting.”
His first Question Time was January 13, 1994, and his final broadcast will be on December 13, 2018.
Dimbleby started broadcasting for the BBC over 57 years ago as a news reporter in Bristol after leaving Oxford University, where he studied politics, philosophy and economics.
He has presented political programmes such as Panorama and chaired the leaders’ debates in the run-up to the general elections since 2010.
The journalist has been the BBC’s anchorman for all general elections since 1979, as well as for the Budget and local, European and US elections.
In 1975, he presented the BBC’s coverage of the first referendum in Europe, a role he repeated in 2016 for the EU referendum.
He has been the BBC’s commentator for many state occasions and continues to commentate for the annual Remembrance Day Service at the Cenotaph.
Paying tribute to his time hosting the programme, Director General Tony Hall said: “David has been at the helm of Question Time for over 25 years: a brilliant champion of the public and the audiences’ friend – getting the answers they want on the big and difficult issues of the day.
“Always a commanding figure, David has ensured Question Time has not only stayed relevant through the years, but a must watch for those interested in politics and current affairs.
“David may be stepping down from Question Time, but he isn’t stepping down from broadcasting. He is a titan in British broadcasting. The BBC and the public are extraordinarily lucky to have him in what are – to say the least – interesting times politically and socially. We look forward to working with him on other projects in the future.”