John Humphrys 'like a fairground prize-fighter' in Today interviews says BBC report

A review of BBC current affairs coverage has compared interviews on Radio 4's Today Programme to a one-sided bout with a prize-fighter.

The report said listening to interviews on the show, which features veteran reporter John Humphrys among its regular presenters, "can be like witnessing what seems to be a big and healthy looking bloke getting into the ring with the fairground prize-fighter".

It added: "One is perfectly fit and looks as though he could take care of himself, but the other does it for a living; one has been schooled in the Queensbury rules, and the other is a pugilist. The result can be excruciatingly entertaining to witness, and no-one doubts that both sides need properly to be tested, but it is not always a fair display of the merits of each fighter.

"While no doubt most interviewees are ready, able and willing to try to put across their point of view, it must seem to many that the contest is played on anything but a level playing field. They are required to turn up at the crack of dawn or late at night, in an environment which is at best unfamiliar, to be braced and ready for any approach to the questioning, live on air with no second chances."

The review, carried out by former ITV boss Stuart Prebble into the breadth of opinion reflected in the BBC's output, also highlighted an episode of Newsnight where presenter Jeremy Paxman clashed with the newly-elected Bradford MP George Galloway.

It stated: "When George Galloway squared up to Jeremy Paxman after Galloway won the Bradford West by-election, Paxman started raining blows on him from the starting bell, to an extent that I was surprised to find my sympathies going towards the challenger. I even found myself wondering whether, if Galloway was given space, he might say something I agreed with. Eventually Paxman did give him space, and I did."

A BBC spokeswoman said: "There are a range of different interviewing styles found across the BBC, which all have their merits. In many cases audiences expect and appreciate rigorous lines of questioning and part of the presenter's job is to ask the questions the public want the answers to."



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