When BBC journalists went on strike recently, Douglas Murray at The Spectator rejoiced that there would be no Today on Radio 4 that day. So what has he got against Today?:
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.