The BBC’s great public service: Cancelling the Today programme

18 February 2013

2:10 PM

18 February 2013

2:10 PM

Is it true that the Today programme did not go out this morning?  If so the strikers have done a great public service.

Giving the country a day off the Today programme is one of the kindest things anybody could do, in any economic climate.  I hope the generosity continues.

I stopped listening years ago after I acknowledged that the programme only succeeded in getting every day off to the worst possible start.  Since I stopped listening my life has improved immeasurably

It is not just the inevitable left-wing bias of the programme or the left establishment view of what is or is not news.  It is the fact that almost no interview is ever enlightening (while those few that are such as Entwistle vs Humphrys can be easily listened back to at some less vulnerable point of the day).

I say this not only having listened to it for years, but having been interviewed on it a fair few times.  The standard Today programme interview with an established lefty may remain respectful, indeed slightly reverential.  For such guests – say Helena Kennedy – the interviewers still save that tone adopted for Cabinet ministers in the 1950s: ‘Is there anything else you would care to tell us?’

But with any conservative – and nearly all active politicians – the tone is entirely different.  Indeed it is almost as bad as the Moral Maze.  The second, if not the first, question is usually: ‘So what you are saying is….’ at which point the presenter tells you what they think you have said.  Or they say what they think you would have said if they had not been so unwise as to allow you to carry on talking during their own allotted airtime.

Needless to say, their summary or interpretation is almost always wrong, so the rest of the interview has to be taken up arguing over what you did or did not say.  I have never heard Humphrys / Naughtie etc say ‘So let us be clear, you are saying…’ and for the interviewee then to say, ‘Yes, thank you John / Jim, that is much better put than I could ever have managed on my own.’

With the celebrity interviewers having long-overtaken the show, the Today programme is simply quite fantastically unenlightening.  If a guest does have some self-contradicting opinions, or has nasty views then perhaps the interviewer might try to reveal this.  But the interviewer’s job should not be to tell listeners that it is so, nor to manufacture an argument in some mistaken ratings-grab.

In any case, if you notice that people are nicer, more polite or listen better today than they do most other days then it will be because the Today programme did not air.  Long may this continue.

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Show comments
  • Ian Young

    The BBC may have liberal Oxbridge ‘on one hand this’ sensibilty but to accuse them of being left wing is ludicrous.

    In order to have a left wing agenda it would first have to have experienced labour and industrial correspondents to cover the struggles of working class people.

    Its agenda is often about middle class life style issues and you only have to see the BBC’s nauseating sychophantic coverage of the monarchy to know which side they are on when the chips are down.

    Any far right contrarian accusing the BBC of left wing bias is just embarrasing themselves.


    Well, the Today programme can be a bit trying at times, but rather better than the Andrew Marr programme which last Sunday devoted the first 10 minutes to a party political broadcast for the Labour party. Or was I still dreaming?

  • disqus_37b9WyU3aA

    This all seems a little unfair on Evan Davis who I think does a good job of avoiding the very real concerns outlined above. He actually seems to want to discuss, rather than talk over and through his interviewee. Humphries/ Naughtie seem to be having a dick-swinging contest with Jeremy Paxman on a bad day, so as a result nothing informative comes out of their spots.

  • antondarby

    Well, I didn’t stop listening to it about 20 years ago because of left-wing tendencies but because it is invariably trite. Whenever anybody actually warms to a subject (this was how it was when I used to listen) the interviewer would cut the interviewee off and say I’m sorry I will have to cut you off there we are running out time. When in fact they have bags off time. The thing goes on for hours and they just keep broadcasting the same topics over and over again interspersed with roughly the same news bulletin, so why they can’t leave people the space to say something interesting I can’t imagine. I think they did a special after Chernobyl. This went on for ages with, seemingly, hundred of experts drawn in . Most of them had nothing had much to say, but they still went through the rigmarole of, I’ll have to cut you off there… when in fact the programme was going on for ages….

  • TimK

    Spot on Mr Murray. Left wing bias runs right through the BBC. Interviewers more interested in promoting their own images than letting listeners form their own Opinions. Absolute waste of time if you are expecting an impartial view. Anyone watched Question Time or even worse, listened to the Nolan Show lately???

  • Eddie

    BBC lifers are striking because they have had it far too good for far too long: virtual unsackability, guaranteed massive pension benefits etc. Like many in the health and educatin systems too.
    I occasionally listen to Today. But these days I pefer to start my day sorting through all my laptop emails (sound off) and admin in perfect silence. As I get older, I often prefer NO radio or TV or other noise at all. Try it. It really does make one think better with a cleaer head.
    After all, my grandparents) did not even have radio until they were in their 30s, so why do we these days always need noise, yapping, inane drivel spurting at us from digital diarrhoea-dribblers (whether TV, radio, mobile phones etc).
    It is all noise signifying nothing. Turn it off! Just say no! Clunk click every trip….oh no, that was you-know-who…scrap that one…

  • Abandon Ship!

    I just switched on the Today programme this morning at 7.10am, and this was on offer over the following 10 minutes:

    1. Prisoner X and Israel; no reasons, no explanations, just there to say, you know, look how conspiritorial and untrustworthy those Israelis are.

    2. The fact that the arrogant and “edgy” Johnny Marr was upset that David Cameron chose one of his songs for Desert Island Discs, to the sniggers and guffaws of the Today presenting team.

    In other words, a perfect demonstration of what Douglas was saying

    • Dicky14

      The Jonny Marr thing was most peculiar – get some drug addled C lister who’s just churned out a pants album to fleece other drug addled 50 somethings and elicit his opinions on a Desert Island Disc episode. WTF? Anywho – Radio 6 is alright and the new lad who does Radio 1 is fine too, if a bit talky.

  • Jimmy R

    If they promise to stay on strike forever I’ll willingly join them on the picket line fom time to time to encourage them.

  • Youbian

    I agree. The bias is so boring now. And yet the BBC survives and we pay for it.

    • margaret benjamin

      Quite Right how can we get shut of the BBC licence fee once and for all? Surly their has to be a way!!!!

  • Daniel Meally

    Hopefully the Question Time audience that they have been busing round the country for the last few years has gone or at least their question writer’s. One can hope.

  • John Steadman

    Well, you certainly cannot accuse Douglas Murray of putting career before principle.

  • ugly_fish

    I gave up BBC radio and TV many years ago and am a lot healthier for it. When I need a rare TV news fix, I invariably go to Al Jazeera – very good in-depth coverage of international events. Most news I glean from several on-line sources in different countries, mainly newspapers. It is surprising what is reported abroad that doesn’t make it into the main-stream UK papers…

    • chan chan

      You gave up on the BBC to go to watch Al Jazeera? Jesus…

      • Harold Angryperson

        Incredibly, Al Jazeera has more balanced coverage of the Middle East than the BBC.

  • Colin

    I agree, Douglas. It has morphed into the radio equivalent of the guardian, it is just not informative any more. As a result, it’s on its way to irrelevance.

  • zanzamander

    What are you talking about? I listened to the Today programme today after a long time and it was wonderful, there was no Jim or John or that other woman with shrill voice, it was brilliant.

  • malkovichmalkovich

    In the media these days there’s far too much reporting on actual news stories that affect people and society. How about more celebrity gossip by phone hackers or elitist rantings from faux-intellectual paunching sociopaths.

    Said no one ever.

  • Mark A J Riley

    LOL – I thought I had woken up on a Sunday with Naughtie banging on about the pope for half an hour this morning. I am going to try and have a Today-detox tomorrow – but where else to go?

    • White Wednesday


    • Daniel Maris

      BBC World Service is OK. Much more interesting. Don’t know if they are on strike.

      • Scradge1

        The World service used to be great, but has gone the same way as Radio 4. It has a noticeable tendency to be rude about friendly countries whilst at the same time sucking up to squalid dictatorships.

        • Hexhamgeezer


          Anyone unfortunate enough to walk it’s corridors would soon see wha a nest of (well spoken) vipers it has turned into.