It’s not in your head. Hundreds of thousands of listeners just hit back at BBC Radio 4.

John Humphrys and Nick Robinson

It’s not in your head. 800,000 listeners have deserted BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme in a year.

The figure throws doubt on the show’s shift further to the right since Sarah Sands became editor in January 2017.

Sands spent almost five years as editor of the Evening Standard, which backed Zac Goldsmith’s ‘racist‘ campaign to become London mayor in 2016. The Media Reform Coalition accused the paper of acting as a “mouthpiece of the Conservative Party” during the campaign.

Between April and June 2017, the Today programme reached 7.8 million people per week. But by 2018, the show had lost 800,000 listeners for the same period.

“Unconvincing state narratives”

Indeed, the Today programme has received a huge amount of criticism for what’s perceived as intensified pro-Conservative coverage:

The BBC pointed out that there was a snap general election during the 2017 period, which could explain the decrease in listeners since. However, other news stations such as LBC expanded their audience.

“Rampant” bias

For many, the views and words of the most prominent people on the Today programme are cause for concern. Host Nick Robinson has faced a barrage of criticism over his treatment of Jeremy Corbyn. For example, Robinson personally peddled Conservative Party style attack lines against the Labour leader. In April 2017, even a Daily Mail journalist asked Robinson to “step down” after the presenter suggested Corbyn was idealistic and incompetent:

And it goes beyond Robinson. Some have also accused fellow host John Humphrys of using his public platform to scaremonger about foreigners. On 27 June 2018, Humphrys made a link between immigrants and pressure on healthcare, schooling and jobs, saying “millions, upon millions, upon millions of them” were seeking to come to Britain.

The Today programme has also faced criticism for its coverage of Brexit. Author A.C. Grayling has attacked the “rampant pro-Brexit” bias of both Humphrys and editor Sands.


In short, there has been an exodus of listeners from the Today programme.

This suggests the show needs to move on from pro-government spin to its stated aim: public interest journalism. And fast.

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Featured image via BBC Newsnight/ YouTube and Johnpagenet/ Flickr

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