Humphrys: I will never be 'soft'

John
Humphrys said he would walk out of the BBC if his bosses instructed him
to be “soft” on ministers because of government legislation, writes
David Rose.

The Today presenter robustly defended his
interviewing technique when he and other broadcast journalists appeared
before a cross-party watchdog committee of peers this week.

Humphrys
was accused by one peer, Lord Maxton, of usurping the job of elected
politicians in holding ministers to account. He retorted: “It is my job
to ask those questions that the public would like to ask their elected
representatives but cannot because they don’t have the sort of access
people like me have.”

But he made clear that he had not come
under any influence from BBC bosses about the questions he put. He said
he would object if BBC bosses told him to “go easy” on someone because
of legislation to which the BBC was sensi- Journalists on The Star in
Sheffield and its sister papers are balloting for industrial action
over claimed staff shortages.

Julia Armstrong, MoC at Sheffield
Newspapers, part of Johnston Press, has estimated staff numbers have
been reduced by about 12, including eight editorial and four
administrative staff, since December.

She said: “We are being
forced to work at breakneck speeds, going over hours and having to do
more weekend shifts, with little time to think about the quality of our
work. We are stressed and the newspapers are suffering for it.”

Star
editor Alan Powell said he was disappointed at the union because there
had been no formal talks with management about the matter and said he
disputed the staffing figures claimed by the NUJ.

Journalists at Sheffield Newspapers have been offered a 3 per cent pay rise, with a 5 per cent increase on minimum grades.

Archant
has made four subs and one graphic designer redundant as part of its
plan to pool resources from the East Anglian Daily Times, the Evening
Star in Ipswich and the Saturday football magazine The Green ‘Un.

The company had originally planned to axe nine jobs.

Sheffield
Star journalists in ballot over staff shortages The Argus will be split
into two geographical editions ever written – nobody asked me to
critique your magazine – but as I read it, I kept making marks on the
pages because I wanted to tell someone how good they were.”

NatMags
is known to have been in development of a secret project for some time,
with Matthew Line at the helm, but staff said they had no idea the
project involved She.

The magazine sells 180,000 copies a month, well behind stablemates Prima, Company, Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan.

She: Accolade from Cosmopolitan founder tive. “That has never happened. If it happened, I would be out the next morning.”

The
committee, headed by journalist and former home secretary Lord Fowler,
is carrying out its own investigation into the review of the BBC
charter next year. But they called in Humphrys, Sky political editor
Adam Boulton, Kevin Marsh, editor of the Today programme and Nick
Robinson, ITV political editor who has defected to the BBC to replace
Andrew Marr, to question them about their views as journalists.

Boulton parted company with the BBC in telling peers he thought the BBC should be subjected to external regulation.

But
Humphrys defended the current way the BBC investigated complaints,
although he admitted: “Some mistakes were made during the Hutton
episode. I doubt whether that is going to happen again. We have learnt.”

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