“Frustrating” Today programme interviews are too short says Jonathan Dimbleby

The host of BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions? said that political broadcasting has suffered because long-form interviews have "virtually disappeared"

Jonathan Dimbleby (BBC, EH)

Jonathan Dimbleby has said that he finds BBC Radio 4’s Today programme “frustrating” because its interviews are too short.

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The host of Radio 4’s Any Questions? said in the new issue of Radio Times that he is concerned that long-form interviews have “virtually disappeared” in recent years.

“The forensic long-form interview has virtually disappeared,” he told the magazine. “Now it’s rarely more than 15 minutes. I find that frustrating; I think we’re short-changing the listener and the viewer. I do feel frustrated by the Today programme sometimes, I think that interviews are cut to the quick.”

Dimbleby added that he has frequently raised the issue with BBC executives and bosses at Radio 4: “I bang on about it all the time. The response is very sympathetic: ‘You’re quite right, Jonathan.’ And you know that it’s going to go into the discard tray. But I don’t spend my life writing in green ink to them.”

Dimbleby has hosted Any Questions? since 1987; his brother David Dimbleby is set to leave BBC television’s flagship political debate programme Question Time at the end of the year.

Jonathan Dimbleby said in the new issue of Radio Times that he believed the “anti-social” element of social media has contributed to a decline in political debate.

“It has a corrosive effect on political debate,” he said. “In the old days, telegrams used to cause a great deal of mutual aggro, because you were brief, terse. Likewise, today, when you start tweeting, you use language that is fit for that purpose, but it’s not fit for political discourse.

“Debate generally has deteriorated in almost direct proportion to the amount of stuff that is uttered. We get more and more words and fewer and fewer thoughts.”

Dimbleby has fronted Any Questions? for more than two decades and although he says he isn’t leaving any time soon, he would be “delighted” if a woman were to take over the role when he does. “I’ve no plans to go but I would be delighted if it was a woman who eventually replaced me,” he said, “so long as the woman is judged, by men and women, to be good.

“It would be embarrassing for any female broadcaster to have a crap broadcaster who happens to be a woman.”

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Read the full interview with Jonathan Dimbleby in the latest issue of Radio Times, on sale now