Politics

BBC bosses told interviewers to go easy on ministers during coronavirus, claims former presenter

The European New- Former Today programme presenter John Humphrys has claimed that BBC bosses are privately telling interviewers to go easy on ministers during the coronavrius outbreak.

Writing for the Daily Mail in a weekly column, the former broadcaster wrote: “Im told BBC bosses are warning interviewers not to put ministers under pressure.

“Why? If the questioning is well informed and polite, surely the tougher the better.

“All this stuff might be justified if we were at war. But were not. To talk of the virus as an enemy is to misunderstand the crisis with which we are faced.”

But the BBC denied the Humphrys claims, saying it was “emphatically not the case, as watching or listening to our interviews demonstrates”.

“It is the job of our journalists to challenge and question ministers on behalf of the public, while bearing in mind that we are in the middle of a public health emergency.”

Sources pointed to Mishal Husain grilling the health secretary Matt Hancock on the Today programme this week, asking if more lives could have been saved if the lockdown had started earlier.

Humphrys also claimed that the daily government briefings were becoming a “pretty inadequate way of getting answers”.

He said: “The chancellor Rishi Sunak – supported by scientific advisers – was able to get away with denying that the chief medical officer Chris Whitty had ever said that rigorous testing had been vital in enabling Germany to achieve many fewer deaths.

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