John Humphrys on leaving Today: “I should have gone years ago”  

Humphrys says he will miss the Radio 4 current affairs flagship - but admits a lot of listeners 'hated his guts'...

John Humphrys

Today presenter John Humphrys has confirmed that he will leave the Radio 4 current affairs flagship in the autumn after more than three decades – and admits he should have gone “years ago”.

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In his first broadcast interview, the Today programme veteran told Radio 4’s The World at One: “I love doing the programme, I have always enjoyed it, always loved it. And I still (do), that’s the problem. I should have gone years ago, obviously I should have gone years ago, but I love doing the programme.”

Speaking to former Today presenter Sarah Montague, who worked alongside Humphrys for 18 years on the programme, he added: “As you know, when you do this programme it dominates your life, not just because you have to get up in the morning so many days a week, but all the time, you have to be obsessed – I think that is the right word – with what’s going on out there.

“You have to read everything and listen to everything and all the rest of it. There are so many things you think ‘oh I could have done this, I could have done that’ and I’m never going to do them if I stay on this programme.”

Humphrys admitted he had considered leaving the programme in the past but then “lost his nerve”.

When asked if he worried about what would happen after leaving Today, he said he still fears he will miss it: “I worry about missing the programme… I genuinely worry about what it is going to be like not doing the Today programme – 32 years is a very long time.”

However, Humphrys said he will not be retiring from broadcasting and that he plans to continue presenting Mastermind. “I will stop doing the Today programme, yes, but I will not retire.”

When asked by Montague what he will remember the most from this 32 years on the Today programme, he said: “This is unspeakably corny but it’s not the politicians, it’s not even the interviewees, it’s the listeners.

“You genuinely feel after you have done this programme for long enough that you have – now I’m not going to say ‘friends’, you can’t say that as a lot of them aren’t your friends, they hate your guts – but you do feel that you have a relationship with a huge amount of people… It’s a relationship with millions of listeners that is a huge privilege.”

Fran Unsworth, BBC Director of News and Current Affairs, said: “For more than thirty years John Humphrys has been a stalwart of Today. It’s hardly an exaggeration to say that anyone who’s played a key role in the political events of the last three decades has been interviewed by John. But most importantly, he has always been a champion of his listeners, holding the powerful to account on their behalf.

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“John will be sorely missed by audiences and his colleagues when he leaves the programme this year – if perhaps less so by the politicians he interviews.”

Humphrys joined the Today programme in 1987, and is one of the BBC’s highest-paid stars, having earned between £600,000 and £650,000 in the year to April 2017 for his work on Today and Mastermind. He agreed to take a substantial pay cut in the wake of the BBC gender pay row and admitted he was “not happy” about the disparity.