Today programme editor to quit Radio 4 months after ministers boycott show

PUBLISHED: 11:00 30 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:00 30 January 2020

Editor of BBC Radio 4's Today programme Sarah Sands speaks to a live audience at Wigmore Hall. Picture: PA

Editor of BBC Radio 4's Today programme Sarah Sands speaks to a live audience at Wigmore Hall. Picture: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

Sarah Sands is standing down as editor of Radio 4's Today programme after three years.

Become a Supporter

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism

Sands, the former editor of the Evening Standard, was appointed by the corporation in January 2017 and became the first woman to edit the programme.

The editor had denied speculation about her departure before Christmas but on Thursday morning she emailed staff to say she was moving on after three years in the top role.

Her departure comes as the BBC plans to focus on digital news and concentrate its efforts on fewer stories.

Sands, who is leaving as the BBC prepares to appoint a new director general and faces threats over the licence fee, tweeted: "God bless the BBC."

Sarah Sands at a dinner with Nigel Farage, Rupert Murdoch and Liam Fox. Picture: MandrakeSarah Sands at a dinner with Nigel Farage, Rupert Murdoch and Liam Fox. Picture: Mandrake

She wrote: "I have decided to move on from being editor of the Today programme and propose to leave the BBC in September.

"It has been a privilege to be part of this remarkable team and I am proud to have championed our intelligent journalism and political independence."

Sands has been criticised previously for her links to Brexiteers including Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and Nigel Farage as well as media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Despite a close friendship with Johnson, after he came to power his adviser Dominic Cummings took the decision to keep ministers away from the programme.

In October, Today recorded its lowest number of listeners in a decade, drawing an average weekly listenership of 6.60 million in the third quarter of 2019.

Radio 4 controller Mohit Bakaya said: "Sarah has held the reins at Today during a time of extraordinary politics, as well as intense scrutiny and challenge.

"She has done so with great poise and dedication, seeking to broaden the programme's remit along the way, and I wish her luck for what she does next."

BBC director of news Fran Unsworth said: "Sarah has brought new ideas and fresh thinking to the Today programme over the past three years.

"Under her editorship she has broadened the programme's agenda, putting a renewed focus on science and arts, and left the nation scratching their heads with the puzzle for Today.

"She has commissioned a series of formidable guest editors from Greta Thunberg to the Duke of Sussex.

"We thank her for all her hard work and wish her well for the future after she leaves the programme this summer."

Become a Supporter

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

Become a supporter

You've seen the news, now discover the story

The New European is committed to providing in-depth analysis of the Brexit process, its implications and progress as well as celebrating European life.

Try 13 weeks for £20

Latest Articles

Most Read

latest issue

ANTI-BREXIT EVENTS

Find your nearest pro-European campaigning activities, talks, protests and events nationwide.