Campbell: BBC needs to get rid of the 'furniture' to become more relevant

BBC Broadcasting House in London. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA.

BBC Broadcasting House in London. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Alastair Campbell has hit out at John Humphry's on-air manner and the "never-ending succession of hard Brexit advocates" for the fall in listeners of Radio 4's Today programme.

Campbell that Humphry’s on-air presenting style was one of the reasons for a loss of nearly 1 million listeners between 2017 and 2018 as well as the “never-ending succession of hard Brexit advocates” on the current affairs show.

He criticised “harrumphing cynicism that has come to be Humphrys’s stock-in-trade”, and urged Today to develop a younger, working-class, less metropolitan voice.

Writing in Radio Times magazine, the TNE columnist said: “While there are doubtless many reasons for the dramatic fall in Today’s ratings, with one million fewer listeners than 18 months ago, might the hectoring style and the crossing from tough questioning to opinionated, snorting sarcasm (other than for the never-ending succession of hard Brexit advocates, the Rees-Moggs, Duncan Smiths and David Davises generally given a chummier ride) have been among them?”

He called on Today to reform following the departure of Humphrys, and appeal to a less middle-class, middle-aged audience. He said the programme needs to take arts and sport more seriously, and to steer clear of “gotcha” journalism.

Campbell has suggested the BBC continues “moving or getting rid of some of the furniture”, and considers Emma Barnett or Shelagh Fogarty or Victoria Derbyshire as replacements for Humphrys.

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