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tv   The Media Show  BBC News  December 21, 2021 1:30am-1:59am GMT

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this is bbc news. we will have the headlines and all the main news for you at the top of the hour straight after this programme. hello, good evening. good evening. that distinctive music can only mean one thing. it's time for channel 4 news and one of the most famous faces in broadcasting. jon snow has been the face of the programme since 1989. over the course of three decades, he has grilled every prime minister, from margaret thatcher up to and including theresa may. he drew the iconic words, "let bygones be bygones"
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from nelson mandela. he shared a plane with idi amin, reported on wars in iran and crises in vietnam. and it's not all been hard news. he has danced and sung on tv and even got stoned on camera. but he's also been accused of being too partisan, of having political views that were too obvious and which undermine the network's impartiality. and so, at a time when the future of channel 4 is upforgrabs, his words have come under unprecedented scrutiny. jon snow, welcome to the media show, and i guess before we start, the first question is — you've got a few days left at channel 4 news. hoping for an interview with borisjohnson? i'm absolutely standing ready and i have every hope that that phone call will come and i'll suddenly be able to say i have literally interviewed every prime minister since i've started. before we get stuck in, ijust want to get one thing clear, which is how you see yourself. we know how we see you, but how do you see yourself? do you see yourself as a
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newsreader first and foremost? are you a reporter digging for originaljournalism who just happens to read the news? i see myself as lucky. and on top of that, i'm a reporter. i have nothing else, no other responsibilities than to tell the stories, to tell the truth and to interrogate. because you love being on the road, don't you? oh, i love being on the road. that's the real arena of retrieving information and ideas and stories that maybe no—one else has gotten to. and, obviously, you spent a lot of your career doing that, out on the road even as a newsreader. you were in haiti after the hurricane, you were in new orleans after the flooding, you were on the ground outside grenfell tower. you and i worked together for a very long time and you went to india over a decade ago. you and i worked together for a long time on channel 4. what do you get from being on location that
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you would not get otherwise? i think you get totally plugged in to reality. there's nothing between you and what you're looking at. it's up to you to try to make something of it and to interrogate anyone who was there and, indeed, to interrogate what it is you're being told. let's go back to where it all began, if you like. you went to university to study law, but were thrown out for taking part in anti—apartheid protest. did you grow up in a political household? good heavens no. well, politically, in the sense that my parents were, what would you call — automatic tories. i don't think there was any actual choice. there was no choice. and, additionally, extraordinarily, my father was the headmaster of a school in sussex. and it was there that i encountered my first politician. who was that? the extraordinary thing was i was in the chapel and i said to my mother, "who's that unhappy looking man down there "at the end of our pew?"
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she said, jonathan, because that's what they called me, "ask your father who that man is. "this is mr harold macmillan. he is the prime minister. "do you know what a prime minister is, young man? "and i said no sir. "well, i am a conservative politician and i run "the country." so you met harold mcmillan. it didn't, from your career, you said that you wanted to be a politician. but there must be some sort of media gene in the snow family because dan snow is also a tv presenter. did you always know you wanted to be a journalist? no, i didn't really know i wanted to be a journailist, i really wanted to be a troublemaker. i wanted to change things. i mean, after i was sent down from university, i had to find something to do
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and i went to work in a day centre for homeless and vulnerable teenagers and stayed there for three years and it taught me everything i had not learned at that point. how come you're sitting with me of the media show? you did become a journalist. i wish i could've said i had worked for the bbc and then made the transformation. but despite pining to work for the bbc, i never have been invited. there's still time, jon. but of course in that time, the creation of independent radio, of commercial radio was hatched, and the first station on air was lbc, london broacasting, and i applied for a job there, and for some reason, and i think yes, probably peter snow, jon snow, he may be our ownjon snow, he can be all right. they have their own peter snow, and it will all make sense. and i had three years of amazing journalism, really.
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because, sadly, the ira went wild, bombing their way across london, and the lucky thing was that i rode a bicycle. and so i got to the scene of the crime often before anyone else got anywhere near it. and all i had to do was find somewhere to lock my bike up. otherwise, i had my tape recorder on my shoulder and dived straight in. and if you are getting raw, amazing, revealing stuff right there on the ground, it is much more powerful, even if it's not as good. it may not be greatjournalism, but it was very powerful radio and people felt they were right in the heart of it. and you are thought to be a very good reporter, even though i probably was a terrible reporter. you took over as channel 4 news newsreader from peter after he absconded to the bbc. was that always your end goal, to read the news? i don't think it really was. i don't think it was never regarded as student regarded as thejob i do a channel
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for news as reading the news. because? why not? it is interrogating the news. of course, you've got to lay out the facts and then challenge the people who are involved in those facts and determining whether they really are facts too. it's both inquisitorial and reportage. let's talk about some of your big scoops as a journalist — there have been a lot. in 1976, you were flying in a falcon executive jet, along with the owner idi amin, who was the dictator in uganda. how did you come to be on that plane? i have to give you a little bit of background. when i left school, i went on voluntary service overseas to uganda, never having been out of england. so, it was a big culture shock, but it was also the most intoxicating and wonderful and amazing way of learning about the world. and i developed this love
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of uganda and of africa and almost as soon as i became a reporter, i did a lot of reporting from africa. i know that you're interested in and, indeed, actually go along with much of what mr enoch powell has been saying recently. he does not want england to be colonised by asia, by africa. and was on one of those trips that we were sent to uganda to try and hunt down amin and challenge him for the terrible things he was doing. and the funny thing is that amin was rather taken with the fact that i knew uganda and i'd lived there. so he invited us on his jet to see the north of the country. and there i was with my crew and a rather burly looking
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air hostess who clearly had a gun on her hip. as we continued ourjourney, it became clear that he had gone to sleep and i was sitting next to him and i thought, i saw this pistol hanging off his belt, and i thought, should i shoot him? you really considered it? well, i don't think i was serious, but also i thought me, pistol, him murderous — me, brave, courageous, looking for the truth. it's time i did something about this. i thought for goodness sake, grow up, jon, there's no possibility. and i thought, he may not actually be asleep, he might be pretending to be asleep. and i looked at the holster and the holster was undone and i could'vejust pulled the gun out, but was it loaded? what idiot would let idi amin on board with a loaded pistol? and then i thought, you're an idiot,
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you're not going to survive this if you try that. and so, i did not. do you regret not doing it? no, thank goodness i didn't. what a stupid thing to try and do. in 1990, you watch nelson mandela walk to freedom, what was that like, and how do you go about reporting a story of that kind? that was absolutely glorious. it was absolutely, the most glorious, it was liberation. south africa had a terrible record of apartheid and here was some kind of — almost a jesus christ figure who had appeared out of prison, an absolute hero of the time and the amazing responsibility if you like of being allowed to interview him. of course, he was no problem at all. it is impossible to say but he was as interested
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in me as he was in him. kept asking me questions, and i said, "mr president, "i don't want to disappoint you, but i have to ask you, "it is you we want to hear from. "not you asking me! "i know nothing and you know everything. "can we just do this interview?" and we had a beautiful interview and he was the most lovely and gracious and amazing guy who had been through so much and yet was still the most vivid and affectionate and loving human being. and he said "let bygones be bygones." "let bygones be bygones." that was more important to him — harmony and humanity — than taking it out of the people who had taken it out on him. that is what i wanted to pick you up on. the pressure that everyone has exerted and also the fact that apartheid committed so many crimes, or so many crimes were committed in the name of apartheid. what should happen to people who committed those crimes?
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i have been saying throughout, let bygones be bygones. now, obviously, nelson mandela is not the only world leader you have interviewed, and you also grilled almost every prime minister since margaret thatcher. do you think politicians are harder to pin down now than when you first started? it's interesting. i think, as the technology has developed, so has the capacity for the leader or politician to evade scrutiny. i think that's a fact. and it's much more difficult. in the comments is good stuff and interogation in congress, and the rest of it, democracy still functions, but the beauty of the press was that it was able to cut through a lot of stuff and just get to a leader and test, and that's much more
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difficult today than it was. tehe difficult part is because they've got people who spend their full—time lives preventing you from getting anywhere near doing anything. the spin doctors... yes. and someone like margaret thatcher, she didn't actually need massive defenders. she was happy to be quizzed on the doorstep at number 10 as anyone. and it's become much, much tighter and much more difficult and in a funny sort of way, it has almost left leaving politicians looking smaller than their forbearers who used to be able to give amazing accounts, suddenly. you'd stop them in the street, and you'd, "what's going on here?" and you would get an answer. now, it is much harder. they think we are the enemy. it's gotten to a very soft and sad space. they think you are the enemy. are you the enemy? of course not. i want truth, i want
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to know what's going on. i want to know more about — on behalf of the viewer and the listener, what is happening? what is your real purpose? what is the purpose of this law? what is the purpose of what you are doing? but it can be very difficult. of course you can get a background briefing, but there are no pictures. and nothing to prove that you spoke to anyone, because it is off—camera. your fellow big—name interviewers tend to have a kind of a particular approach. andrew neil would adopt a tone of incredulity. how would you describe your interview style? i am much thicker than they are. they are accomplish people with university degrees, i'm not and, therefore, i have to be much more animal, and i try to ask the questions that the viewer might really want answered. i try to follow up with an intelligent question, but the idea that i know any more than the average citizen, but perhaps that is the joy of this. the average citizen wants you to ask questions on their behalf.
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they don't want you to pull out your phd and check subsection 5, clause 6 and see with the minister is telling the truth or not. they want you to ask straight on, what is going on here? as you wander around the party here, there is one thing that strikes you, and that is an extraordinary number of people in your own party hate you. why do they hate you? i don't find that, actually. i find travelling around this conservative conference where i've spoken at every area of reception, travelling around the country, supporting conservative campaigns and colleagues. they find you a bit aloof, that you're not one of them. ijust do not accept that. i really don't — i don't accept that for a minute. now, it's not all been straight news for you. you have been stoned on tv, you have danced, you have sung on camera. i know you are a former chorister, is that something where is there a case or not a case for saying the news reader shouldn't be a part
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of the story, that audiences want a more bland figure? i don't think the presenter of news has a responsibility to evade the truth that he or she is a human being. and i think the attraction in many ways of what we, who had, say, more opportunity to question people and be more discursive is that we remain human beings. we did not become automatons or trapped persons who are doing other people's bidding. the danger is that they will bring their weapons out onto the street and that there will be bloodshed again. moments later, guns actually did appear. order was eventually restored by those who express no sympathy for the women's position. can i ask about your accent? it has definitely
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changed over the years. were you ever told you sounded too posh? often. i am a posh boy. did you change it on purpose? no! i speak as i ever did. you do not! your voice has definitely gotten less posh. hasit? come on. i would dispute that. ok, i will play you some tapes later. you have been called a pinko, a lefty, has the question of impartiality ever been raised to you by your bosses? never. nobody has ever sat me down and said you are too right wing or too left wing or anything else. and i don't think i am. i think i go straight down the middle. for example, you take grenfell tower. grenfell tower is an extraordinary event in our time that speaks so loudly of inequality. now, if i take
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a position that looks at this from the point of view of a victim, someone who is living up the 73rd floor and lost their husband, child and everything else, am i then to say look, i'm sorry. i have to be completely objective about this, if they worked hard they would not have been on the top floor. no. you have to be the right person asking the right question at the right time and you're not going to adjust yourself because you think in some way, you are too left to right. i don't think of these things. i think of the appalling suffering the person on the 12th floor who went to that terrible experience. andrew marr, when he was stepping down from the bbc tojoin lbc — he said he wants to get his own voice back. do you feel constrained but what you can say because you work for channel 4 news? absolutely not. i feel no constraint at all and i have very rarely ever been ticked off over anything like that. it's been heavily criticised
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by the government, some of them see it as having a left—wing political bias, which channel 4 news entirely disputes. channel 4 disputes absolutely. why do you think they have that impression about channel 4 news? because the government has just closed a consultation on channel 4's future. it has the responsibility of not being the bbc. i love the bbc and i listen to it and i watch it far more than i watch any other channel. but the fact is, that given the bbc�*s position and given the fact that it is, in a sense, it runs a very fine the fact that it is, in a sense, a state run and controlled organism, even though it runs a very fine and objective operation. but i think the glory of channel 4 is that it is not the bbc and that it actually has
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the opportunity to roam free and make of the world what we can. can you remember a time whenjournalists came under so much criticism from the public as well as the government? i think there's been many times where it has been tough. i don't think it has gone on as long as this but this epidemic is an exacerbating factor. but there were times in margaret thatcher's period when there was tremendous warfare with the media. it goes in cycles. i've remember harold wilson complaining about the media. it's a part of the furniture. frankly, if democracy stops complaining about the media, and we have reached a bad situation. does cancel culture exist? not so far as channel 4 news is concerned. i am not conscious of it all. everyone is under pressure one way or another — maybe under pressure to tell the truth. and that is our responsibility.
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if we were to stop telling the truth, then maybe we should be called to attention and not repeat it. but the fact is, that doesn't happen very often. i think people exaggerate the extent to which there is some sort of a battle going on. i don't really think there is. and i'm really interested in hearing your take on the health of the news industry right now. you work at itn, which makes channel 4 news, channel 5 news, is there a lot of competition? your colleagues at itv had last week had a major scoop as we discussed in the media show joking about downing street party. what was the mood at channel 4 news watching your colleagues could such a big scoop? pleasure. genuine pleasure. because it had come from itv which did not have a great track record of real massive scoops like that. and it was a real utterly brilliant scoop and a very meaningful one. and we were envious, of course,
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but we were thrilled. we didn't celebrate very much because we had access to it, after it had been broadcast on itv. but no, it was pleasure that our building, which houses lots of tv channels, had done something that the bbc must�*ve been, well, flapping their ears about. and there has been a lot of talk about the changing of the old guard. andrew marr is leaving bbc, andrew neil has had his own well—publicized exit from broadcasting — for the moment, anyway. what do you make of all these big news beasts — yourself included — going all at once? i think the big thing is to say how old are we? and when you look at the age, the age that we emerged from in many ways, the naive youthful period of the media's development in which there was — we were all finding our way. and the media today, obviously is quite different from the very odd and confused and rather posh outfits that used to exist
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in the 50s and 60s. and all male. and now it's multicultural and it's men and women and it's a different world. we've been lucky enough to be born in the right years, the late �*aos and early �*50s and we have come of age, as broadcasting and the media have come of age and we have blossomed and enjoyed it and given back. and ifeel very proud to be part of it. how do you feel about leaving channel 4 news after three decades? it's been a long time. it's like leaving a marriage. you know, i mean, there are the kids and all the links and the rest of it. you know, you are all interdependent in so many ways of the workplace and you see each other day after day, week after week and month after month and year after year.
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and it's a big wrench. and it's your routine. your routine is channel 4 news. my routine hasn't changed in 33 years. looking back over your time and the role, a lot of people, you know, certainly that i have encountered, leave journalism because they feel jaded. they say, you know, the same stories keep coming up again, it is depressing, nothing changes. do you feel that your journalism has made a difference? you were talking earlier on about your background and what you wanted to do when you came to journalism. do you think yourjournalism has led to change for the better? because i'm tall and have funny ties, people are terribly nice to me in the street and you get this feedback. and that is wonderful. you do get feedback and you do get a sense of why people watch and why they enjoy it and the rest of it and it's notjust me. it's the fact that we are a team and we are different
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from other opportunities and other options. and obviously, i'm going to miss that. jon snow, thank you for coming on the media show today. it is wonderful to hear from you and thank you to our studio engineer. everyone out there, thank you so much for listening and goodbye. hello there. it's been a cloudy and chilly start to the week. things will change. from midweek, we'll start to see atlantic air coming our way. that means temperatures will be rising, but we're also going to find some rain. but what about christmas? well, i'll try and answer that question later on. we start, though, cold in many places on tuesday morning, particularly in the clearer skies in scotland, with a frost in the north. we could see some pockets of frost across some western parts of england and wales, but the prospects of some sunshine during tuesday, which will be good news on what is the shortest
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day of the year. it's the winter solstice. these are the sunrise and sunset times, but, of course, after tuesday, the days do get longer. we do have some sunshine across northern parts of scotland, some sunshine at times coming through across wales and western england, but more cloud further east. still that blanket of cloud in northern ireland, southern scotland that will push its way into the central belt and make it feel quite chilly here. temperatures on the whole similar to what we had on monday, and near—normal, really, for this time of the year. but it's from wednesday that the weather starts to change because high pressure that's kept it quiet for so long is moving away. and instead, we've got a big low out in the atlantic. that's going to push bands of rain our way. but we start wednesday with a widespread frost in scotland, england and wales. some early sunshine, but it clouds over from the west. the wind starts to pick up. we've got this band of rain mainly affecting northern ireland, pushing into wales and southwest england and then into parts of scotland later on, bringing in some milder airfor western areas. but for many parts of the country, it's still another chilly day. that band of wet weather moves northwards and eastwards
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overnight, and then with low pressure still out to the west, another band of rain sweeps around that as well. so we're going to find some wet weather moving northwards and eastwards again during thursday. could stay wet for most of the day across the northern half of scotland. elsewhere, that rain does clear through. we get some sunshine following on behind. and with a south—westerly wind, just look at what it does for the temperatures — widely in double figures across northern ireland, england and wales. as the winds fall light, though, overnight, and if you're going to be travelling into christmas eve, it could be misty with some patches of fog around in the morning. and then we have that battle between the milder air and colder air that's in the north. now, for many, it looks like we'll stay in the milder air for christmas day, but if there is going to be a white christmas, at the moment, it only looks likely in northern parts of scotland.
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