PJ Harvey on the ‘Today’ programme: A radical and refreshing take on a radio staple

Harvey generated her own digital birdsong: a flurry of comment on Twitter

Share

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 guest editors at the end of each year. The feeling was that, after 10 years, the gimmick may have run its course. But after hearing PJ Harvey’s edition this morning, I hope they keep it going.

The musician approached her role from a completely different perspective. 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 explored the relationship of knowledge and power.

Perhaps predictably, the more reactionary parts of the media immediately 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 One Telegraph writer suggested the show should have been replaced by “birdsong”.

Harvey’s Today generated its own digital birdsong: a flurry of comment on Twitter which was complimentary and critical in equal measure – surely a sign that the programme was generating debate.

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 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 start of the show, presenter Sarah Montague observed that it was “a quiet news day”, emphasising the value of the guest editor experiment. She may have been getting an excuse in for the unusual material, 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 Austerity, who cued up his report with the Jam’s “In the City” before letting rip at the Square Mile.

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.

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.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee