David Dimbleby is to leave Question Time after 25 years on the BBC’s flagship political programme.
The presenter, who will leave the show at the end of the year, said it was “the right moment to leave”.
The 79-year-old, who has chaired the show since 1994, insisted he was “not giving up broadcasting” but planned “to return to my first love: reporting”.
BBC director general Tony Hall called him “a titan in British broadcasting” and a “champion of the public”.
Dimbleby, who began his broadcasting career more than 57 years ago, is the longest-serving presenter of Question Time.
In addition, he has been the BBC’s anchorman for all general elections since 1979, as well as the chief commentator for many state occasions including the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in September 1997.
In 1975 he presented the BBC’s coverage of the first referendum in Europe, a role he repeated in 2016 for the BBC’s coverage of the EU Referendum.
Speaking about his quarter of a century at the helm of Question Time, he said it had been “exhilarating following the twists and turns of British politics”.
“It has been a privilege to work for a programme which brings voters face to face with those in power,” he said.
The show has hosted many of Britain’s most prominent politicians, as well as contributors as diverse as Russell Brand and BNP leader Nick Griffin.
Last year saw him throw out one member of the audience after they repeatedly interrupted panel members during a Question Time edition filmed in Plymouth.
He also revealed a less serious side, when it was reported that at the age of 75 he had got his first tattoo, of a scorpion, to represent his star sign.
Paying tribute, Lord Hall said: “David has been at the helm of Question Time for over 25 years: a brilliant champion of the public and the audience’s 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.”
“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.”
Dimbleby’s final broadcast on Question Time will be on 13 December 2018 – but there is no word yet on a successor.
Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark recently revealed she would be interested in taking over the role and would “throw her hat in the ring” when Dimbleby stepped down.
Other suggested contenders include John Humphrys, Huw Edwards, Jeremy Vine and Nick Robinson.
It is not known how much Dimbleby is paid for his role because Question Time is made by an independent production company, meaning his salary did not appear in last year’s list of top paid BBC stars.
Recent reports in the Telegraph speculated that he was paid £450,000 per annum by the corporation.
Question Time has been on air for nearly 40 years. It was initially chaired by Robin Day (1979-89) and later by Peter Sissons (1989-93).