The BBC has been accused of airing "sycophantic drivel" after a leading banker's debut as guest editor of the Today show provoked several complaints from listeners.
Sir John Bond, head of the HSBC bank, who is about to take over as chairman of Vodafone, was the first of five guest editors of the programme this week.
Yesterday's programme included a profile and interview with Sir John by the BBC's business editor Jeff Randall, which included a brief discussion on the number of times Sir John has moved house during the course of his career and closed with another interview, devoted to his views on China, and conducted by presenter Edward Stourton.
At the end of the programme, the show's co-presenter James Naughtie read out three e-mails from listeners. One said: "It is so refreshing to hear a three-minute advertisement for the HSBC instead of that boring objective journalism." The second asked whether it was of any interest to anyone how many times Sir John had moved house and added: "How can you broadcast such sycophantic drivel? Does the fact that this man Bond is guest editing entitle him to a brown-nosing interview from Jeff Randall?" A third e-mail took Sir John to task over the use of background music in his branches.
A BBC spokesman stressed that the profile and interview slots were part of the guest editor format: "Two critical e-mails is a very small number. There were a lot of positive calls as well.''
Items on the programme which were generated by Sir John included the use of the internet, Harley Davidson motorcycles and the growing economic power of China - of particular interest to a bank which originated in Hong Kong and still has most of its business in south-east Asia.
This is the third year the BBC's has used guest editors for Today at Christmas. Other guest editors this week will be Anna Ford, the newsreader, who edits the programme this morning, Steve "Chandrasonic" Savale, from the band the Asian Dub Foundation, David Blunkett, the former Work and Pensions Secretary, and Queen Noor of Jordan.