Here's a piece I recorded for the Radio 4 Programme Feedback, which was broadcast this lunchtime. It's part of a series about what people want from Radio 4 in the future...
Next time you listen to Today, the World at One or PM just count the number of times you hear the phrase: “I’m sorry, that’s all we have time for”. Time after time nowadays in interviews, politicians or pundits are cut off in their prime just as an interview is getting interesting. Why? Because Radio 4 news producers think their listeners have the attention span of a flea.
Yes, we live in a fast moving society, but how can an interviewer possibly get anything out of a politician when the politician knows full well that he will either be interrupted after ten seconds and will only be on air for a maximum of a couple of minutes. What happens is that the politician decides in advance what he wants to say and will say it whatever John Humphrys might decide to ask. And where does that get us? Nowhere. The listener is shortchanged.
A few months ago I was asked on Today to discuss the David Laws resignation with Kelvin Mackenzie. Evan Davis asked me an initial question. I answered it as briefly as I could. Kelvin then had his go. I assumed I’d get another bite of the cherry, but Evan then tried to draw the interview to a close. I audibly sighed and uttered under my breath ‘for God’s sake’. At least I thought it was under my breath. Evan, to his credit, albeit it with some embarrassment, asked if I had something else to say. I most certainly did and had a go at Kelvin for his criticism of David Laws. Kelvin was provoked, and the listener got a far better deal than they would have done if we had only been allowed one short answer.
It’s time Radio 4 stopped treating its listeners like kids with attention deficit syndrome. Yes, the 8.10 interview on Today can last 10 minutes – on the odd occasion longer, but where has the forensic 30,45 or 60 minute interview gone? You won’t find it on your TV and, unless you’re a non politician, you won’t find it on Radio 4. If we want to hold politicians and others to account the one on one, longer interview is the way to do it. And it’s very cheap radio. So come on, Radio 4.