Being a gentle soul and a fan of Radio 4, I’ve struggled for years with the problem of what to do with the ten past eight interview problem. They’re so full of conflict – creating more heat than light - however, the interviews and subjects are often too important to miss.
I dislike the hostility of the Today interviewers who interrupt and ignore their guests, many of whom are elected by us listeners. I don’t like hearing a guest being crudely caricatured or having their words twisted to create a more extreme position, and I certainly don’t want to listen to the interview and arrive at work feeling in a worse mood than when I got up.
However, the interviewees are at least as culpable for these problems as the hosts. Prevarication has become an art form and shamelessly answering the question you’d hoped to be asked (however different) seems to be acceptable and applauded as good technique. Another approach is to dominate the airwaves with a long monologue answer that reduces the numbers of hostile supplementaries. I suspect that the guys from Just a Minute may be offering interview coaching – certainly anyone who can get through a minute of content without interruption has achieved something of note.
There is someone who’s missing form this verbal combat – the verbal jousting of the interviewer and their guest. Yes us, the listener – who is not only the consumer of this programme but also (if the guest is an MP) pays for both sets of salaries from our taxes. We should have a view – a perspective that both Today and our MPs should consider. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have some short, concise and relevant answers – and courteous and relevant questioning? Is there the smallest chance that offices around the country would be slightly happier first thing because its workers weren’t being managed by someone whose blood pressure had been artificially elevated by John Humphries?
I offer two possible remedies: