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Evan Davis

What are presenters like off microphone?

Self-important, self-regarding, self-righteous? Well that’s me, but what about Evan Davis?

I talked to him this week for Feedback and it was a delightful experience. I don’t think I have ever met a nicer, less pompous, presenter in my long and chequered career. So I felt a bit mean when I asked him why, on Today, he keeps interrupting people and then telling them what they have just told him. I did so on behalf of critical listeners, although most correspondence about Evan is even-handed, unless he is having a row on air with the Chancellor.

Evan Davis - Today programme

I put to him my theory about why so many Today presenters keep interrupting their interviewees. It wasn’t to do with time constraints, which is a factor, nor about the fact that both interviewee and interviewer have to get up too early in the morning. It’s rather that, having studied their briefs assiduously, they know what someone is going to say after they have uttered a couple of words and the interviewer then stops listening and moves on to the next question.

The bulk of the interview with Evan was concerned with his business programme on Radio 4, The Bottom Line, and whether it is loaded towards so called “fat cats”, ignoring the impact they have on their employees, cutting wages and jobs.

I also asked him whether there had been a change of attitude to business in recent years in the BBC after the previous Controller, Mark Damazer, complained of a “them and us” approach.

It set me thinking of my early days in the Corporation, 40 years ago, when I worked on BBC2’s The Money Programme. It was criticised by some BBC Governors, notably the trade unionist Tom Jackson, for being obsessed with the City and neglecting manufacturing. (What would he think now?) Ten years later, when Channel 4 began, it broadcast a series about trade unions, but that was cancelled as the unions’ power began to fail after the Thatcherite reforms.

Given the disaster of the last few years it could be argued that the British economy as a whole became too dependent on the City, and has been badly damaged by the greed which emanated from it, in particular from the banks.

Evan gave me an overview of how he saw the development of the Corporation’s business coverage.

Roger Bolton

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  • Comment number 11. Posted by cuautepec

    on 6 Apr 2013 22:35

    I live in Mexico and frankly we have some really top interviewers here, who manage to get the response out of their interviewees in an unfailingly polite manner, without being so aggressive and interrupting all the time. I personally think that the interviewers on the Today programme are an unpleasant waste of time, you are left as ignorant after the interview as you were before it, it is an appalling style.

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  • Comment number 10. Posted by jimmyclaret

    on 2 Apr 2013 10:48

    It is a common theme on R4, with presenters appearing to think their own opinions matter. What is the point in acquiring high profile interviewees just to tell them time has run out? Unprofessional and bad manners.

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  • Comment number 9. Posted by GroggyGreg

    on 1 Apr 2013 21:33

    Evan Davis gets to the heart of the matter, which is what we want isn't it?

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  • Comment number 8. Posted by thinkingseriously

    on 1 Apr 2013 12:33

    I am quite perplexed by the criticisms made of Evan Davis, In my view he is one of the brightest people on the BBC and lends weight and authority to the Today programme to which I am a regular listener. He does his best to dig beneath the glib and meaningless statements that politicians make.
    In the past, I would not have listened to a business programme. It is the refreshing way that Davis deals with the topics both in his engaging style and in the programme's range. It is not right to say that he does not enquire after the 'workers' views. He often asks about the relationships of managers, executives and structures of the firms to those of the workers and the security and opportunities for the workers within the businesses under examination.
    I suggest that people do not listen to presenters they don't like and leave those of us who
    value them to listen without this sniping which is often comes across as petty and whining. We cannot base our judgements of people who otherwise may be very good and competent people on such things as 'sneering and giggling'.

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  • Comment number 7. Posted by vu

    on 31 Mar 2013 12:51

    his fans too, if only I could learn a lot from him.

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  • Comment number 6. Posted by Lawrence Jones

    on 31 Mar 2013 11:34

    Unfortunately Mr. Davis’s ‘Today’ interview with Mr (Robert) Crow in relation to the tube driver’s strike made it very clear that R4 is still a radio station that only caters for the wealthy and upper-classes of Oxbridge (arts graduates) and the South of England. I can’t recall when I last heard such an aggressive and hostile interview. The GP contract was far more scandalous than the tube drivers’ claim, yet none of the BMA representatives was exposed to the kind of verbal assault experienced by Mr. Crow during that interview. There are far more billy grabbers amongst the medical profession than train drivers. The BMA is, of course, an upper-class union and so different rules apply.

    One only has to study the numbers of producers associated with ‘The Bottom Line’ to conclude that the concept is flawed. Sorry, but I don’t have the time to detail the requisite rectification formula. Female economists tend to make better broadcasters than males – hence the iconic status of Ms. Mary Goldring (and she was funny, especially when chatting up her male subjects!)

    On a positive note, at least Mr. Davis is familiar with modern music - unlike Mr Webb who (during one edition of Today) made it clear that he had never heard of the Smiths.

    P.S. Mr Davis also replied to an email once, so full marks for that – although I never spotted him contributing to The Radio 4 messageboards (unlike Ms. Winifred Robinson who was also a fine broadcaster on the Today programme, with a delightful and musical Liverpool accent).

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  • Comment number 5. Posted by Kath

    on 30 Mar 2013 20:47

    Evan Davis is bright, curious and his knowledge of economics make him an asset to the Today programme. The problem withToday is that it often has interesting topics for discussion but time restraints often annoyingly cut them short. That's how it has to be I suppose and the interviewers have to work under those time constraints so are impatient with the formulaic . The politicians' message has to be challenged and Evan does it well. Sometimes interruptions are unwarranted but that may be my subjectivity. I think politicians can be hard working, caring people but perhaps that would come through more if they weren't media trained. The majority are so frightened of being of message we all know what they are going to say. And that's more annoying than an interrupting interviewer.

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by newlach

    on 30 Mar 2013 14:10

    On the one hand it is asserted that in the Today programme Mr Davis interrupts too often but on the hand in the Bottom Line it is asserted that he is too cosy with business tycoons. It would appear that he is just plain wrong!

    The fact of the matter is that too many politicians when asked a question answer as though they have been asked: "Tell me how bad the last lot were?" or "Just tell me anything that will win you some votes at the next election?" It is not a gentle verbal interruption that they need when they start to talk irrelevant nonsense, but the blast of a fog horn in their ear! If evasive politicians were not interrupted there would be shrill but legitimate calls to sack coasting presenters. The Feedback postbag would be splitting at the seams and the porter's back would be in bad shape!

    The last Money Programme episode was entitled "BP: $30 billion blowout". I don't suppose people talked much about billions 40 years ago.

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  • Comment number 3. Posted by Mrs Rhino

    on 29 Mar 2013 00:05

    Mr D catches politicians being economic with the truth: a pre-prepared speech which politicians deliver come what may needs interrupted. Diatribes are not discussion.

    I very much value his work on R4. His background provides insight and clarity and I'm pleased when the Money Boys get Evan Davis interviewing them. I get depth to answers - and highlights on the silences and swerved issues which he clarifies.

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  • Comment number 2. Posted by mike

    on 28 Mar 2013 20:20

    Yes you are right Jmichel, A very irritating presenter who leaves no doubt of his own opinions which should be irrelevant.

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