On the McCann story
As Peter Horrocks points out in an earlier contribution to this blog, there has been enormous interest in the McCann story. The presenter of a different phone-in programme, Vanessa Feltz, acknowledged as much in her column in the Daily Express this morning - a caller to her show was indignant that she wasn't discussing the McCann case because it was "all anyone wants to talk about".
We certainly wanted to talk about the case yesterday morning, but we knew there were huge sensitivities. Just like Vanessa, we don't deal in the exchange of conjecture, idle tittle-tattle or slander.
So we started with two ideas. Did our listeners support the McCanns? I think that's a fair question. Newspaper columnists throughout the prints are expressing sympathy for the McCanns. It seems odd to me that Victoria Derbyshire's listeners should not have the opportunity to express their sympathy - or otherwise.
But secondly we wanted to be sure that the case was "all everyone wants to talk about" - and that's where the inaccuracies have crept in. From the beginning, we planned to offer Victoria's listeners the opportunity to pass judgement on yesterday's phone in topic. As the debate intensified, with some listeners berating us for the way we had framed the discussion, we put it to their vote - should we continue with the discussion or should we stop it? By a margin of about two thirds to one third, they said we should stop it - so we did.
Since we had always planned this vote, as a way of trying to get some sense of public reaction to media coverage of the McCann story, it's slightly over the top to suggest we had to "abandon" the phone in. We were prepared both to continue the discussion, and to move on to something else.