Anniversaries are very interesting, of course, but all the same I think a news programme ought to revolve around, well, the day’s news. That is something which increasingly seems to be missing from the Today Programme, once the BBC’s flagship news programme.
Overnight, as I have read elsewhere, stock markets have plummeted around the world. Michel Barnier has made further statements on a future Brexit trade deal, again appearing to try to block the comprehensive trade deal which the government, and I suspect most business interests across the EU, want. But these were matters only sketched-over in a bizarre edition of the Today programme which devoted virtually every single item to the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act.
The Today programme didn’t even cover that properly, choosing to concentrate only on women’s suffrage – when the act was also significant in granting the vote to 5.6 million working men. These were men who had fought in the trenches and had had no say in electing the government which had sent them to war. Surely that was worth a mention – but not on the Today programme, which chose instead to turn the occasion into a women’s fest, with only females allowed to present or even speak on the programme and every item about women. They even ditched the business news which normally runs at 7.15am – yes, on a day when stock markets were plunging.
It was like Monty Python’s News for Parrots. But then neither is it a one-off. The Today programme has been veering in this direction for months, since even before the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Every day seems to have to carry a story about gender inequality – quite often about its own female presenters’ pay. When Carrie Gracie resigned as the BBC’s China Editor in protest at the BBC’s gender pay gap she bizarrely popped up as the programme’s presenter several days in succession – something she had never done before. It was the equivalent of putting Nigel Farage on as guest presenter in the run up to the EU referendum – something rather unimaginable, and certainly something with which the BBC would have been made to answer. There have been, to be fair, some stories about men, too – but almost every one of them has been about sexual assault.
It is as if the Today studio has been seized by the staff of Spare Rib, with John Humphrys made to present the show under duress. Contrary to some of the BBC’s critics, I have never detected any great party political bias on the Today programme. I can imagine someone sits there with a stopwatch to ensure equal coverage. But on individual issues it is quite another matter. The show doesn’t not even try to disguise an anti-Brexit, liberal-left bias. For now it seems to have become wholly dedicated to feminism, and to the brand of feminism which favours highly-paid professional women rather than the interests of working-class women. Woman’s Hour used to start at 10am. Now it starts at 6am and lasts most of the day. I think I will be tuning into Talk Radio in future.