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Is news funny?

Peter Rippon | 11:15 UK time, Wednesday, 9 August 2006

One of the programmes I edit, Broadcasting House, really irritates some listeners. There is a small but vocal section of Radio Four devotees who just do not accept the fundamental proposition - that you can have fun as well as do serious news on the same programme.

Broadcasting House logoThankfully the show's healthy audience figures convince me that such views are a minority. So recently Mark Doyle has exposed child labour in the mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo (listen here), but at the same time we've made a theatrical arrest (listen here).

Getting the balance and tone right is hard. In fact it is one of the hardest things we do. It regularly dominates our editorial discussions and we get it wrong sometimes. In fact, if you want to see the blood drain from any reporter's face you do not need to send them off to doorstep the relatives of the victim of some terrible tragedy. As they leave the building on a story just say "have some fun with it!" and watch them wilt.

It may be hard but I believe passionately we must continue to do it. Radio Four is often criticised for being too stuffy, too aloof and too elitist. Humour is a crucial weapon in countering such perceptions.

Peter Rippon is editor of PM and Broadcasting House


This reminds me of one day whlist watching the twinkling Anne Diamond presenting the fluffy 'Good Morning Britain'

She was describing in great detail the horrors of the London Underground blaze and immediately said; "And don't forget to come back after the break to get some lovely make up tips from our fashion expert"

By the way why are editors here always bleating/complaining about audiences not living up to their expectations?

Surefire way to lose an audience.

Anyway the customer is always right . . .

  • 2.
  • At 01:28 PM on 09 Aug 2006,
  • Ben Reilly wrote:

"The customer is always right"?

No, they most certainly are not. When I've worked in customer service industries we were told to forget that. The customer is very often wrong, but what must always be remembered is that they are the customer.

And if "the customer is always right", I take it you would like the BBC to become as "fair and balanced" as Fox?

"And if "the customer is always right", I take it you would like the BBC to become as "fair and balanced" as Fox?" >>>>

I was just using a little bit of good ol' British irony. Humour. That thing we use sometimes.

And yes, it is true that customer service agents are trained to switch the problem back onto the customer: a thoroughly irritating modern trend:

Much the same as the editor of this article turned audience complaints back at the audience!

  • 4.
  • At 02:50 PM on 09 Aug 2006,
  • Philip wrote:

Peter, Don't you dare listen to the naysayers who want you to change a winning formula. Broadcasting House is ace. And life simply wouldn't be worth living without my daily fix of PM, especially with Eddie Mair.

An element of humour is the only thing keeping us sane these days. I grew up on Nationwide, much derided for its 'skateboarding duck'. But it had a 'down and out' feature which covered homelessness years before it became a 'big issue'. And James Hogg was living 'green' on an island decades before reality tv [castaway] and the 'Ethical Man' on Newsnight.

Paxo and co are getting stick for using humour, but as long as it isn't 'dumbed down' it has a place.

One of the funniest things I find is banter between presenters. This shows them as work-mates doing a job together instead of just news-robots.

Keep up the good work!

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