PJ Harvey's Today programme: 'A radical and refreshing take on the format'
Yes, the programme skewed to the left but, no, it wasn’t tosh
Ian Burrell is Assistant Editor and Media Editor at The Independent, i paper and Independent on Sunday. He covers news from the whole media sector from television, press, radio and advertising to technology. His weekly column on the media appears every Monday in The Independent and i paper. He also writes on media, music and culture, including long-form pieces for The Independent’s Saturday magazine and the Independent on Sunday’s magazine, New Review. He is a regular presenter of BBC Radio 4’s What The Papers Say and a specialist commentator to Monocle 24 radio. He has contributed to most major broadcast outlets including BBC television and radio, CNN, Sky News, Al Jazeera and LBC. He has also written on media for GQ magazine. Ian has been reporting on the media industry for The Independent for more than a decade. Previously he was the newspaper’s Home Affairs Editor. He worked at The Sunday Times for five years, including as a member of the investigative Insight team, covering stories on political funding, industrial espionage and the arms industry. Previously he worked in ITV for London Weekend Television, on a weekly current affairs programme presented by Danny Baker. Ian trained at the Birmingham Post & Mail and was Regional Reporter of the Year in Press Gazette’s national awards.
Thursday 02 January 2014
There has been talk in the offices of the Today programme of scrapping the tradition of handing control of Radio 4’s flagship news broadcast to a series of guest editors at the end of each year.
The feeling was that, after ten years, the gimmick may have run its course. But after hearing PJ Harvey’s edition this morning, I hope they keep these guest editorships going.
The singer and musician didn’t just tweak the Today format, she approached her role from a completely different perspective to those who normally make the programme. The result, filled with snippets of music and poetry, felt radical and refreshing.
Thought for the Day was split between former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams reading his poem “Passion Plays” and Julian Assange delivering an alternative version in which he referred to scripture as he explored the relationship of knowledge and power.
The more reactionary publishers have already condemned her efforts, with the Daily Mail website branding it the “worst ever” edition of Today, and a Daily Telegraph headline dismissing it as “left wing tosh”. One Telegraph writer suggested the show should have been replaced by “bird song”.
Harvey’s Today generated its own digital bird song, a flurry of comment on Twitter which was complimentary and critical in equal measure, surely a sign that the programme was generating debate over breakfast tables.
Nick Robinson took issue with a John Pilger piece titled “Is the Media Now Just Another Word for Control” but it won’t be the first time the BBC political editor has shouted at his radio.
Yes, the programme skewed to the left but, no, it wasn’t tosh. Photographer and triple amputee Giles Duley talked of the plight of injured servicemen. Russian history professor Bob Service condemned the totalitarianism of Kim Jong-un and Leonid Brezhnev.
At the very start of the programme presenter Sarah Montague had observed that it was “a quiet news day”, emphasising the value of the guest editor experiment. Of course, she may have been getting an excuse in for the unusual material on the schedule, and I would imagine that some of the Today regulars felt a little uncomfortable.
It can’t have been easy for business presenter Simon Jack to hand over to John Rees of the National People’s Assembly Against Authority, who cued up his report with a snatch of The Jam’s “In the City” before letting rip at the Square Mile and the inequality it represents. Property in the banker belt district of Elmbridge, Surrey, was as valuable as that in the entire city of Glasgow, he said.
PJ Harvey is an outspoken liberal but let’s not forget this was part of a Today series that included guest editions by the CEO of Barclays Bank and a former head of MI5.
She knew she was testing boundaries but I didn’t feel BBC editorial values were compromised. Early bird listeners would have heard her saying she had demanded that the BBC did not restrict her contributors in what they could say or edit their pieces “without their full consent”. A lot of the content she had chosen “is about censorship in one way or another”, she added.
Bravo the BBC for not putting on the shackles.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Barbarians vs Samoa interrupted by sprinklers as fans criticise lack of Wi-Fi and poor seating at West Ham's Olympic Stadium
- 2 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 3 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
- 4 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
- 5 David De Gea to Real Madrid: Real finally get their man with £29m bid for Manchester United goalkeeper
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Monty Python-inspired Australian Sam Simmons wins comedy award with 'very silly' show
X Factor hopeful Mason Noise: 'How is Cheryl Fernandez-Versini in the music business, let alone a judge?'
Game of Thrones season 6: Director promises most exciting premiere yet 'starts off with a bang'
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Online toy marathon to launch new film
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up