AS a dyed-in-the-wool atheist I hesitate to say that I do anything “religiously”.

But I think it’s fair to say that I used to watch Newsnight with a devotion which could be described in that way.

Every evening from 10.30pm onwards I took an injection of current affairs to keep me going through to the next morning when the news cycle would begin again.

Newsnight to me was like an alcoholic’s night-cap – a little something to send me to sleep.

And then, at some point in the last six to 12 months, I just stopped watching. Newsnight went from being a daily fix to an occasional pleasure.

I can’t think why, or even when, it happened.

I occasionally give it a look. But I usually watch the first minute to see what’s coming up, shrug my shoulders in apathy at what’s on offer and then change the channel.

When you’ve lost a news junkie like me, you know you’re in trouble. Figures out this week show that Newsnight’s average audience is now just 450,000 – half what it was 10 years ago. On many occasions the programme doesn’t breach the 200,000 mark.

For several hundred thousand of us, Jeremy Paxman and co are no longer integral parts of our lives. The Beeb must be worried that its flagship late-night news programme is losing viewers so rapidly.

I can’t explain why Newsnight should suddenly become so unpopular, but I’ve a horrible feeling that the programme’s relatively high-brow nature will get the blame.

If the downward trend continues, the BBC will have to come up with an alternative – whether that’s a revamped Newsnight or a new show altogether.

But either way, it will surely be less intelligent than what’s currently on offer. And people like me, who turned away from a relatively high-brow programme, will only have ourselves to blame.