In one interview, John Humphrys shows everything that’s wrong with the BBC

John Humphrys and David Davis BBC Today
Emily Apple

On Radio 4‘s Today programme on 12 June, John Humphrys interviewed David Davis about the government’s Brexit plans. And this one interview provided a perfect example of everything that’s wrong with the BBC.

This was Davis’ first interview since the recent rumours of his threat to resign over the customs union. As such, we might have expected a hard-hitting interview exploring the details of what’s potentially the biggest change the UK has seen in a generation. But instead, we heard something that sounded more like two old blokes having a cosy chat.

Oh, it’s all a good laugh!

From the very first question, Davis was relaxed and jovial. Humphrys asked him how close he came to resigning. Davis replied:

You shouldn’t believe what you read in the newspapers, John.

And then he started laughing. This was then followed by a joking conversation about whose “friends” came up with the rumours and whether they were, indeed, friends.

This set the tone for the rest of the interview. Other ‘humorous’ incidents included Davis laughing over Humphrys’ age. And further ‘hilarity’ ensued when Davis called Humphrys “disgracefully cynical” and Humphrys apologised.

Listeners were far from impressed:

Waffle, waffle and yet more waffle

The interview lasted ten minutes. But there was not one serious question. Instead, Davis was able to waffle phrases such as “these are really important issues” and simply provided a list of issues such as “counter-terrorism”, “data” and a “strong successful economy”. Humphrys made no attempt to challenge him on either what he meant or what he was doing about any of these issues:

Another Twitter user succinctly summed up the interview:

Other people pointed out the serious side to the issues the pair joked about:

We deserve better

Ultimately, people felt let down by the BBC:

And some proposed a simple solution:

Humphrys’ interviewing style veers between unbounded aggression and outdated and offensive views, to what appears to be a chat with an old friend. The BBC is supposed [pdf, p5] to be impartial and it should hold the powerful to account. In this interview Humphrys wasn’t helping its cause. We deserve so much better from our public service broadcaster.

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