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The future of news and current affairs on BBC Radio 4.

Eddie Mair | 15:14 UK time, Monday, 3 September 2007

In the Furrowed Brow, Piper posted this:

"John Humphrys in a well argued article paints a damning picture of flag-ship News and Information programmes such as "Today" being neutered at best, possibly becomming extinct, as a result of forthcoming BBC funding cuts
Can you, or one of your colleagues let us know how "PM" presently sees its' future..?"

I have asked a senior editorial figure to respond....


  1. At 04:04 PM on 03 Sep 2007, Fifi wrote:

    It seems to me that many of the other news/current affairs programmes on TV and radio wait to see what Today and PM make of a story, before committing their own resources to digging up an angle or just re-reporting it.

    Without the BBC to uphold standards, and to ask the hardest questions, there is no standard for them to aim for. As they are driven by ratings and ad revenue, they will cut-cut-cut and take the route of the lowest common denominator in order to balance the books.

    The BBC's public service remit is the most important thing in its Charter.

    Whilst I would find it hard to argue that Today is THE most important programme ... Mr H and Mr N in particular annoy me so much, often trying to score points at the expense of letting their victims clarify the facts, that I switch the radio off when they come on ... the 'principle' of Today and PM and Newsnight is paramount and must be retained, at the expense of some of the pointless rubbish on other channels.

    Not to mention the pointless rubbish channels.

    Who makes those judgements, and how they are made, is the hard bit of course.


  2. At 04:18 PM on 03 Sep 2007, JimmyGiro wrote:

    Who pays the piper...

  3. At 04:56 PM on 03 Sep 2007, Sid Cumberland wrote:

    Fifi - couldn't agree more re Messrs H & N. I'm always willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I usually end up switching to Radio 3. This morning, for example, Mr H reduced Gordon Brown to incoherence by his constant interruptions - though when he had a point to make himself, he managed to shut the PM up.

    Personally, I don't want to hear Mr H scoring points - I want him to do what Eddie does - ask the awkward questions and let us listen to the awkward answers.


    [Comment submission error again ...]

  4. At 08:23 PM on 03 Sep 2007, Bedd Gelert wrote:

    Can I just stick up for Mr H ? I heard him this morning and thought he was great. Yes, he does interrupt, but without him diving in to a gap which Brown leaves [he has stopped talking against them] , he simply wouldn't be able to keep the interview on track.

    Brown [or whoever else] would just say 'But first let me say...' and drone on as in a Party Political Broadcast.

    I concede Mr N can be a tad smug, and he does ask some exceedingly long questions, but on balance Today does a very good job.

  5. At 07:54 AM on 04 Sep 2007, Piper wrote:


    "I have asked a senior editorial figure to respond...."

    Thank you for pursuing the matter

    Any idea who might respond, via what medium and when?

    I jusy hope the absence of a response so far isn't indicative of the absence of a future...

  6. At 09:22 AM on 04 Sep 2007, Jo wrote:

    I actually thought that was one of the less egregious examples of Mr H interviewing - I did actually find out some interesting points (and was therefore rather irritated by the sports reporter whinging that he'd have to catch a later train now that the interview had run on - oh woe).

    Although I am a huge fan of BBC current affairs and particuarly the news broadcasting, I have to say that to an outsider such as myself the current round of "don't take me, take him!" interviews coming out of the department are not an edifying spectacle. The sense of self importance that seems to come out in these types of piece does make it difficult to sympathise, I find...

  7. At 11:46 AM on 04 Sep 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    As I understand it, the main issue here is the 'funding' issue, so while the points raised above are interesting, they aren't relevant to the basic problem.

    I've noticed that there seems to be a lot more doubling up recently, that there seem to be fewer personnel around so that existing news staff are covering and filling in for holidays and absences. That seems to me to be a sensible use of resources if finances are tight, though it must be irritating for some staff sometimes.

    Incidentally, I note Eddie is filling in for Jonathan for the next three weeks on Fridays, but I think this, too, is good as it must provide Eddie with variety. Carolyn, as we all know, can now be described as ubiquitous - but I gather she also rather likes the variety.

    Anyway, I hope that any further squeezes are made in sensible ways and that the fundamental purpose of programmes like PM and Today isn't diluted. I also hope that the excellent contributions of people like Eddie and John Humphreys aren't lost through their services being 'poached' from elsewhere.

  8. At 11:48 AM on 04 Sep 2007, Peter Rippon - PM Editor wrote:

    Sorry not to get back on this sooner but there is not much I can say. Nothing has been decided yet but essentially PM is in the same position as Today. The licence fee has been set below inflation so there is a debate within the BBC about how to live with less money and adapt to the rapidly changing media world at the same time. The BBC Trust has to approve any changes before any announcement can be made. The DG's view is here:


  9. At 12:58 PM on 04 Sep 2007, Roberto Carlos Alvarez-Galloso,CPUR wrote:

    For BBC PM and BBC PM Froggers:

    The BBC including BBC PM are worth their money. There is no need to change to adapt to a market position of the day. What happens is that these are excuses to supress free speech. It happened in Cuba, Venezuela [with RCTV], and the USA [with many Independent Media].

    My suggestion for Mr. John Humphries is that he should live with Bush at Crawford Texas.

  10. At 01:12 PM on 04 Sep 2007, Piper wrote:

    Peter Rippon @ 08

    ...many thanks for that Peter

    The DG's staff "Address", particularly in respect of "The licence fee settlement" section, makes abysmal reading

    The settlement *imposed* seems to indicate someone really doesn't like the Beeb

    Can't help wondering if there's an element of No.10 Downing Street pay-back involved here.

    Someone's parting-shot perhaps...

    Surely not... Silly me

    I've shortened the "Address" section below, but the gist remains:

    *The licence fee settlement

    ...But we've already taken a lot of cost out and the scope for traditional BBC cost-cutting is limited in many areas. If we are to make further gains, we've going to have to be more imaginative and more targeted in our approach.
    And third, we can look at moving money from some of our current commitments to some of our new plans. Switching priorities isn't easy either – pretty much everything we do, we do for a good reason – but we may end up concluding that some of the new proposals are so important that we should move the money.
    Reduced investment. Increased self-help. Switching priorities. To deliver Creative Future and balance the books, we're going to need some combination of all three – though the mixture will vary across different parts of the BBC and, in many cases, the right people to determine what's possible and what's best will not be me or the Executive Board but people inside the different Groups and Divisions.*

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