Tag Archives: John Humphrys

➤ The most ferocious Today grilling despatches the Beeb’s top cat

John Humphrys , Today,

Gotcha! John Humphrys in the Today studio (photo: BBC)

❚ HE’S TENACIOUS, HE’S FORTHRIGHT, his reputation rests on being the toughest interviewer in British broadcasting. And yesterday he claimed the scalp of his boss, the director-general of the BBC. At 8:30am, the nation dropped their marmalade in a united splat on the breakfast table, as John Humphrys humiliated the recently appointed chief of the BBC for not reading the newspapers or listening to his own news service, and for being badly out of touch. That evening, the hopelessly outgunned George Entwistle resigned from the job he had held for 54 days. His own internal report into failures of journalism within the corporation was due to be delivered today.

This was the most rousing interview in memory to be aired by the Today programme, Radio 4’s current-affairs flagship renowned for its rigorous journalism. It was historic. Here was the BBC mired in a continuing controversy over investigations into child-abuse and the calibre of its editorial decision-making. Humphrys the grand inquisitor has a cupboard full of industry awards, and this bout was a model case of having the facts on his side, and of an interviewee, the BBC’s “editor-in-chief”, floundering like a novice because he had not marshalled his defence. On and on and on, Humphrys pressed him, and his quarry had nowhere to run. It was a rout.

➢ BBC Today interviewer John Humphrys to his director-general, George Entwistle:

So you’ve no natural curiosity? You don’t do what everybody else in the country does, read newspapers, listen to everything that’s going on and say, What’s happening here? Do you not read papers, do you not listen to the output?

The most disgraceful admission by the hopeless Entwistle was that neither had he read, nor had he delegated a minion to tell him the news of the BBC’s latest crisis broken by The Guardian’s front page hours earlier. Not only that, but he had embarked on the most important interview of his career unprepared.

Robin Day

The knack: Robin Day interviews Margaret Thatcher live in 1984

Anybody remotely experienced in pulling the levers of power, from prime ministers to chief executives, rehearses every high-profile interview with an adversarial colleague before entering the arena. On the eve of every interview with prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the hard man of a previous TV generation, Sir Robin Day, rehearsed the burning issues with the Evening Standard’s political editor, Robert Carvel. “Sometimes I played Thatcher,” Carvel reported, “sometimes he did.”

As for how a busy man reads the papers, my own mentor Charles Wintour, editor of the Evening Standard, had to be ready to chair the key editorial conference at 9:10am, after okaying his paper’s first edition. How? He would skim three national papers in the car before reaching the office daily at 8am. An early-bird journalist was employed solely to greet him with the day’s key stories cut from from the entire national press – an instant digest of the burning issues in an era before the internet was invented. That’s how, Mr Hopeless Entwistle. At 10am Wintour read the morning mail: “To help maintain standards of accuracy, I insist that all letters complaining of error [in the Standard] should be shown to me.” That how, Mr Hopeless.


David Dimbleby

David Dimbleby: nailing leaders who lack the stomach to lead. (Photo: BBC)

➢ Broadcaster David Dimbleby talking to Humphrys today about the DG who resigned:
The fact that he didn’t fight back against you on Saturday shows he wasn’t the right man to lead the BBC

❚ TODAY’S TODAY WAS ALMOST AS HISTORIC. Coruscating, trenchant, yet scrupulous. One of the most resonant names in British broadcasting, David Dimbleby, damned the corporation’s management for having “gone bonkers” and speaking “gobbledegook”. He faced John Humphrys in the same studio seat that had helped jettison the director-general, and as a veteran TV journalist he nailed the failings of the BBC’s top brass. “The fact that [Entwistle] chose to resign rather than fight showed that he wasn’t the right choice for director-general, admirable man though he may be. If you are going to be the director-general you have got to fight for the organisation.”

The BBC’s jargonised bureaucracy does not produce good director-generals, he said. “You get people who have played the system carefully, who rise through the ranks and they don’t have the stomach for the kind of leadership that’s needed. The man at the top has to make sure there are systems that tell him: Have you read The Guardian this morning?”


➤ Adam Ant reveals his terrifying years in purgatory

Adam Ant, John Humphrys , Radio 4, BBC, On The Ropes, bi-polar disorder, mental health

Adam Ant talks frankly about mental illness to John Humphrys © BBC

❚ ON THE ROPES is a serious issue-led strand on BBC Radio 4 in which veteran interrogator John Humphrys talks tough to somebody in the public eye. This morning he discussed bi-polar disorder in depth with the flamboyant and charismatic popstar, Adam Ant now aged 56, who at one stage in his later life “would have gone to prison for a long time”.

Humphrys — “The man who dominated the pop scene in the early 80s was [20 years later] a burned-out husk locked in a mental home with people who, he said later, wanted to be dead. Adam Ant, did you want to be dead at that time?”

Ant — “It wasn’t really wanting to be dead. It was really that I felt dead, I felt I was encased in a Dante-esque purgatory. It was worse than hell. I can’t describe how terrifying it was, knowing you are in control of your faculties and being told you’re not.”

Adam Ant , glam rock, Prince Charming

Adam Ant in 1981: in his glam-rock guise as Prince Charming, a heroic highwayman based, he says, on the film stars Errol Flynn, Marlon Brando and Clint Eastwood

Ant talks throughout in a low soft voice, but his views are heartfelt. He said he disagrees with the use of the term bipolar disorder and insisted: “At this point I don’t need medication… I am always passionate. I’m not hyper. Onstage I’m an athlete. That doesn’t make me nuts or paranoid.”

Afterwards, he was criticised for some of his blunt language, especially for saying: “I was put in a nuthouse and it is a nuthouse — it is worse than Bedlam.” His descriptions of life in care are graphic. “The only thing they are concerned with is polishing floors and making sure you take your medication… It’s like the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but there isn’t a cute nurse there being jokey and you’re sedated. I want the prime minister to know that takes place and it’s wrong.”

➢ Riveting listening, On the Ropes is repeated tonight at 9.30pm, then on iPlayer

❚ TODAY AT A PRESS CONFERENCE Adam Ant confirmed 11 concerts for his Blueblack Hussar tour of Britain from May 16 in Brighton to June 4 in York, plus a screening of the 1981 Prince Charming Revue on film, plus live Q&A at the Coronet Theatre in Elephant & Castle on May 11.

In today’s Press Association video interview (below) at Chelsea football club’s Stamford Bridge stadium, Adam Ant announces the tour with his new band, The Good, the Mad and the Lovely Posse, based on the series of preparatory small gigs over recent months. He says: “It’s time for a little bit of real rock and roll — there’s too much sampling and karaoke going on.”

He also says that his sixth studio album, Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar In Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter (an old naval term for corporal punishment in which sailors were flogged), has been postponed until 2012. His own website says: “So, apparently this tour will not be to promote new material”. Adam tweets Mar 30: “I would like to say… Its not my fault the album got pushed back… there are reasons which cant be disscused [sic] at this time.”

❏ Posted April 1 by music-news.com, below — 12-minute interview backstage after the midday showcase Under The Bridge on March 29 “I don’t want to do downloads. [My new album] is not for earplugs or mobiles. If you’ve got kids, you owe it to them to play them a vinyl disc in their lifetime because once they hear it they will never get over that experience… I don’t like the people that invented the internet — it encourages children to sit in a room, not move, look at a screen and get fat. And noone cares. I do. I have a daughter. I want real records for real people.”

➢ Stream-of-consciousness interview with Adam Ant in the British online magazine Clink, March 23 — on psychiatrists, mental health, families, Steve Jobs, the new album as a manifesto (“my heart, my guts, my soul”), Liam Gallagher, Robbie Williams, Sony, ticket prices and New Romantics