Monday, October 17, 2011

Steve Hewlett, the Media Show and the question nobody in the media can answer

Radio Four's Media Show is currently one of the best things on the network. That's probably because its presenter, Steve Hewlett, is the best broadcast interviewer working anywhere. He's done enough homework to be able to get an interviewee to explain the key points of what are increasingly complex stories and yet when he slips the stiletto between the ribs he doesn't seem to be doing it maliciously.

I just caught up with a recent edition where he interviewed The Guardian's Director of Digital Engagement about the practicalities and ethics of their new Facebook alliance and the new editor of The Independent, Chris Blackhurst, about press regulation, Johann Hari and the future of the paper.

When he asked "Do you think the Independent will still be here on paper in five years?", the editor said that this was difficult to predict, which is a pretty remarkable answer if you think about it.

A John Humphreys would not have been able to let that answer go by without mocking the inability of the newspaper to be able to see its own immediate future. He would have repeated the question in a number of different ways while the editor shifted from foot to foot and eventually muttered something about having to speak to his superiors.

Hewlett didn't bother. He knows that the media is the land of vanished certainty. To pursue the question would only have tempted Blackhurst to make something up. I'm very glad he didn't.


  1. I think we're all finding the Paxman/Humphries interrogation approach very tiring now; it's like playing against Arsenal - everyone knows how to nullify them, thus preventing the blows from landing.

  2. The most gob-smacking item on that excellent podcast was the revelation that the BBC pays (sic) BSkyB something like £10 million per year for "re-transmitting" BBC's entire output. And most Sky viewers spend more than 50% of their viewing hours "consuming" the BBC items in their paid-for "packages".

    A little late in the day it appears Mark Thompson is "raising the issue" of their biggest competitor (who is out-bidding the BBC for major sporting events) being PAID to include the World's greatest TV and Radio channels in their packages.

    Make THEM pay the BBC £50m per annum for all this quality stuff and lets see how the sums add up then.

    My dander, which is normally borderline comotose, is well and truly up!!!

  3. Totally agree about the very irritating ego of Humphries. I switch off when he does his set piece 'big' interview of the day, as it is so predictable, and a waste of the valuable short time he has to elicit some useful information.