Tuesday 7 October 2014

'Today' gets tough

There was very little sign of the new gentler style of interviewing on this morning's Today

Quite the reverse. I've not heard as turbo-charged an edition of Today as this for a long time.

There was Mishal Husain's insistent barracking of Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey over his planned u-turn on runway expansion at Gatwick. There was Justin Rowlatt enraging Sir Alan Sugar by accusing him of bullying. And there was Sarah Montague's relentless pursuit of Moazzam Begg over whether he would condemn the so-called ISIS or not.

Given that Ed Davey was being evasive, that Sir Alan Sugar can give it but can't take it, and that Moazzam Begg is as slippery as an eel that's fallen into a barrel of butter, such tough interviewing was necessary. 

The social media reaction to Sarah Montague's interview with Mo Begg was interesting. By and large, the division was clear: Those who support Moazzam Begg (Muslims, the far-Left, nice liberal-minded types) were really p***ed off by Sarah Montague and cried 'Pro-establishment bias!', whereas the rest of us - including some who are normally critical of the BBC's softness towards the likes of Mr Begg - were pleased with Sarah's performance. If she found his evasiveness distasteful and tried to expose it, well, quite good on her!

As for Today editor Jamie Angus's desire for more lighter subjects and less doom and gloom on the programme, so as not to scare off the listeners, well, between 7 and 9 we heard, the topics covered were: 

(1) the so-called ISIL attempting to conquer a town on the Turkish-Syrian border, (2) the Lib Dem u-turn over Gatwick, (3) the Justin Rowlatt-Sir Alan Sugar scrap over The Apprentice, (4) a neuroscientist, John O'Keefe, who has won a Nobel prize (for 'place cells'), (5) the parents of murdered American James Foley, (6) controversial cricketer Kevin Pietersen, (7) Thought for the Day with Mona Siddiqui on bullying and the internet, (8) whether police forces are using secret terrorism surveillance techniques to get around other legislation, (9) the murder of Alan Henning and Moazzam Begg, (10) the Lib Dem position in Scotland, (11) the Spanish nurse who has caught Ebola, (12) community tensions in Rotherham in the wake of the child grooming scandal, (13) a blue plaque for Raymond Chandler and (14) the Lib Dems' attitudes to the Conservatives. 

Not exactly light listening then.

Mishal Husain's interview with Professor O'Keefe lived down to expectations for a Today interview. She had a Nobel Prize-winning scientist on the line and had the chance to explore with him exactly what he discovered and what his discoveries tell us about the brain, and yet all she could think to ask him was about the concerns of animal rights activists over his use of rats and then to invite him to criticise the UK government's immigration policy. Is she even less interested in science than John Humphrys?  

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