Friday 26 September 2014

Radio 4's 'Today' to be dumbed down

Following Newsnight editor Ian 'Cool' Katz's widely-publicised calls for a lighter, less aggressive kind of political interview - and his own determined steps to lighten Newsnight - it looks as if another top BBC editor is thinking along the same lines.

According to the Guardian, BBC Radio 4 Today editor Jamie Angus is concerned that his programme isn't appealing to "younger audiences". 

These younger audiences "tell us sometimes they have to pay too much attention to Today, some of the items are difficult to understand, some of them are too long"... expect poor John Humphrys to be forced to follow in poor Kirsty Wark's footsteps and have to do something daft like rappin' 'n' gettin' down wid da yoof...

Mr Angus is also looking for new ways to report "bad foreign news", like Ukraine, Syria and Gaza, as some Radio 4 listeners just can't cope with it all, and have fled to to Radio 2 instead (apparently more than 300,000 of them over the summer).

Such people feel there was far too much "distressing foreign news" this summer, and they didn't enjoy being upset by it.

Nor, said Mr Angus, did they enjoy angry Israeli and Palestinian spokesmen shouting down the phone at John Humphrys.

So the Today editor is thinking of changing "how we do the storytelling, how we do the interviews.” 

I have some suggestions:

- Maybe they could shorten the reports to something manageable, like tweets (eg "This is Jon Donnison in Gaza. Won't someone pls think of the children #Israelsucks"). 

- Maybe Yolande Knell could 'do all the voices' in her reports, like Martin Jarvis. Or maybe Martin Jarvis could do them for her. 

- Maybe Mark Regev and Mustafa Bargouti could be asked by Sarah Montague to guess each others thoughts and then mime them to each other over the phone (in the spirit of a modern-day Educating Archie, or I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue). 

- Maybe the Cookie Monster (apparently set to replace Evan Davis) could start spelling out the name 'Benjamin Netanyahu' for Mishal Husain, and then going 'Om nom nom nom' as he consumes the letter 'B', the letter 'E', the letter 'N' (etc). 

That would bring 'em all rushing back from Radio 2. 


  1. I think the era of the Paxmanian interview style (sceptical, brutish and repetitive) is over. It became soporific in effect and gave small returns.

    Much better to try and give a politician enough rope to hang themselves I think.

    Dan Read

    1. With Evan Davis gone, the interruption, repeating of the same question, and dishonest restatement of a guest's words quotients will fall dramatically. If only they weren't so interested in scoring a gotcha, obsessed with certain pet issues, or weren't intellectually incapable of approaching certain subjects (especially their pet issues), there might have been a chance for improvement.

      But here Angus is talking about the level of the content itself. Sad, and I bet Rod Liddle will have something to say. But who will be listening to a breakfast time One Show?

      Maybe the BBC has figures showing the majority of listeners are pensioners on a free license fee, and aren't worried about more people canceling their direct debit over this.

  2. I've been listening to Today since the era of Jack deManio which was anything but highbrow! There was a switch to a harder news agenda in the 70's which may have had its time. I rarely bother with Today now its relentlessly dull, but then so are the politicians. As someone close to the pension I'd actually like a bit more life in it!

  3. An interesting thought that the Israeli interviewees are as rude and as loud as their Palestinian counterparts. I would think Mr. Angus would be hard pushed to find an Israeli interviewee shouting at John Humphreys.

    The comment above about Jack De Manio M.C. (and bar according to Wikkipedia) reminds me that I went to the same sachool as Jack. I looked him up on the internet and see that he left the army after a court martial in 1944. The reason for the court martial is not apparent from a search of the internet. He was married so I assume it was not for the obvious reason (did I hear anyone say maintaining school traditions? :-) )His life would make an interesting programme.

    Christopher Scopes

    1. That's an intriguing mystery about JdM, Christopher. I first came to 'Today' with John Timpson and Brian Redhead.

      Yes, I listened to a lot of those 'Today' interviews during Operation Protective Shield and it certainly wasn't the Israeli spokesmen doing the yelling. They were always polite, however firm.

  4. I expect that soon Today will be offering cash prizes to listeners who manage to listen, for at least 90 seconds, to reports containing original thinking? Maybe a top-ten tunes corner?
    Perhaps allow politicians to present their ideas in complete, unquestioned, silence? Or why not just play the sound track of ITV's 'Good Morning' ?


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