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Why the Today programme hasn’t been dumbed down

16 February 2019

7:00 AM

16 February 2019

7:00 AM

The sad announcement of John Humphrys’s departure from Today has provoked once again the suggestion that the programme has dumbed down. There is supposed to be too much showbiz. The implication is that news people who, in their own phrase, ‘know their onions’ (almost always, perhaps not coincidentally, men) are being pushed aside by others (usually, perhaps not coincidentally, women), who are fluffier. Despite my own lack of interest in showbiz, I think this criticism is wrong. Today is a news magazine programme in an age in which public debate is less about pure politics and more cultural / philosophical / religious / technological / environmental / economic / sexual/ social etc.

It is not supposed to be a three-hour Westminster programme with endless stories of party rows and boring pressure-group reports calling for ‘more resources’ for pet causes, with one ringmaster. If it were, it would be called the Nick Robinson Show, and would require only 40 minutes each day. It is much, much wider — more from abroad, more humanity, more light and shade, more voices. Although I shout at the programme almost every morning, I also sense it rising to these challenges imaginatively. A paradoxical result of its policy is that it breaks more news than it would if run by the onion experts.

This article is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator Notes, available in this week’s magazine. 


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