Crime fiction writer PD James has won the BBC’s Nick Clarke Award for journalism for her interview with BBC director general Mark Thompson.
James conducted her interview with Thompson last December while acting as the guest editor of the Today Programme on Radio 4. Judges praised her for her “polite tone, sharpness and competence”.
She said: “The broadcast interview is one of the most effective ways in which the major issues of today’s world can be discussed, and I am greatly honoured to be the recipient of this important prize established in memory of a distinguished broadcaster”.
The Nick Clarke award was created in honour of the former presenter of BBC 4’s The World At One, who died in November 2006, to celebrate and recognise the best broadcast interview of the year.
Here is an excerpt of the James interview, which prompted plenty of headlines for the way she “skewered” the director general:
PD James: “Well, director general, my affection for the BBC is rooted, really, in childhood because I was born in 1920 and I think the BBC came into existence in 1923 and thereafter I heard it in my home virtually every day of my life.
“But basically, I think it has changed and to me sometimes it seems like a very large and unwieldy ship that’s been floating there since 1920, taking on more and more and more cargo, building more decks to accommodate it, recruiting more officers, all very comfortably cabined, usually at salaries far greater than their predecessors enjoyed and with a crew somewhat discontented and some a little mutinous, the ship rather sinking close to the Plimsoll line and the customers feeling they’ve paid too much for the journey and not quite sure where they’re going, or indeed who is the captain.
“And that may be a little unfair but it’s, basically I think, how a lot of people might see the BBC – basically, very unwieldy and very bureaucratic and less clear about what it should be doing.”
Mark Thompson: Well, I mean, I think that where the world has definitely changed is thatâ€¦ thatâ€¦ that once upon a time when the BBC was the Home Service, this radio station we’re on at the moment, it’s now Radio 4, but the Home Service of the BBC and the Light Programmeâ€¦ it was very clear what the BBC wasâ€¦
PD James: Exactlyâ€¦
Thompson: â€¦and what it wasn’t, but in that world of digital media, defining what you do and what you don’t do, it’s not a, you know, it’s not to do with, you know, x number of TV stations or x number of radio stations, you have to decide very clearly what your priorities are and I have to say that I do think we have priorities – the best journalism in the world, for example, is absolutely one of the priorities of the BBC; outstanding programmes and content for children is a priority…
The other interviews shortlisted for this year’s award were:
- Owen Bennett-Jones The Interview, World Service, interviews Revd Ian Paisly.
- Roy Jenkins, All Things Considered, BBC Radio Wales, interviews Tim Rhys Evans.
- Andrew Hosken, The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, interviews Dr Barry Walker.
- Jeff Randall, Jeff Randall Live, Sky News, interviews Alistair Darling.
- Olivia O’Leary, Between Ourselves, BBC Radio 4, interviews Julie Coakley and Jill Daley, two people who suddenly lost their sight.
- Mark Lawson, Front Row, BBC Radio 4, interviews Russell Crowe.