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The great interviews with celebrities appear to now be a thing of the past

PUBLISHED: 18:09 14 July 2019 | UPDATED: 18:09 14 July 2019

Bill Grundy, who had a famous run in with the Sex Pistols on live TV

Bill Grundy, who had a famous run in with the Sex Pistols on live TV

PA Archive/PA Images

Too much interupting and too many interviews loaded with products to plug. Broadcaster Paul Barnes laments the demise of the really good celebrity interview

The last time I wrote, I reached the limits of the word quota, just as I was about to pick off some of those interviewers who seem to be worst affected by the condition becoming known as "interruptivitis". The main symptom of this infection is the unrestrained urge to barge in and shoulder-charge interviewees, dislocating their answers and spraining their thoughts. "Sorry to interrupt," they say. The spoors have been creeping through the studios like ash die-back or Dutch elm disease.

Some interviewers have an insatiable desire to take certain politicians to the mat and score three falls or a knockout, thus coming out top. I heard one radio presenter recently conducting such a malevolent, politically biased encounter that their card will definitely be marked. Beware the midnight knock, laddie.

"Sorry to interrupt ..." There's one chap who says it so often he might get around to claiming the copyright. He's a pushy fellow even when he's not on the air (I am aware of this because my spies tell me so; don't look now but I have them everywhere.) You probably know who the man is. He so obviously knows more about more things than most people and he's not afraid to pepper his interviews with nuggets of learning, relevant or not. Very likely he believes he's a reincarnation of Brian Redhead.

Now, Brian really did know everything there was to know, as if he'd snacked on the Encyclopaedia Britannica. He could come across as bumptious which got up the noses of some colleagues. I observed this because we sat at opposite desks in the Today office.

Long after I'd moved on he interviewed Nigel Lawson about his 1987 budget and mentioned unemployment. Lawson said it was what he expected from "a lifelong Labour supporter". There was a pause and then Brian asked for a minute's silence "while you compose an apology for daring to suggest you know how I exercise my vote ..." There's another know-all who constantly cuts across what a guest is saying only to say what the guest would have gone on to say anyway. A day must surely come when an exasperated guest picks up their hat, coat, umbrella and briefcase, not forgetting the book they've come in to talk about, and stalks from the studio muttering that there seems little point in being there when the presenter is doing all the talking for them.

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I could give more examples.

Then I thought, "What on earth is the point?" They are such easy targets. Anybody could spot these people; they're on radio and TV often enough, and with the current state of affairs there's no shortage of examples. All political parties have been craving attention even though they know they're unlikely to get the kind they actually want. They are queuing up for a verbal pummelling. They might sit and try to raise a serious issue but all that interviewers and editors are panting for is trivia.

Yet some of those same interviewers can turn into craven sycophants, purring pussycats when an oily PR manipulator presents them with a star or a celebrity to salivate over. How many times have we seen the famous being warmly thanked for appearing, overlooking the fact that they and their agents crave publicity for their latest venture.

There have been occasions when it's the celebrities who are more likely to do the saliva-shedding, like the one-time practitioners of spit and swearing, the Sex Pistols. The great Bill Grundy had a studio encounter with them in 1976. He was accused of goading them into swearing and behaving badly. They didn't need much goading. There was switchboard jamming outrage. One viewer claimed that it made him kick in the screen of his brand-new telly. Bill's explanation was he was doing it "to prove that these louts were a foul-mouthed set of yobs. And that's what I did prove."

BBC pay revelations

David Clementi, the chairman of the BBC, pooh-poohed the idea that the corporation should diminish its wage bill and use the money for licences for people over 75.

"The suggestion is nonsense," he growled. "The sums don't add up." Clementi fails utterly to see that what matters are not the sums but the perception. The sums that really don't add up are those paid to certain space-wasters, on air and off it, who don't "earn" but receive megabucks. As an old phrase has it: being paid the wages of a genius for doing the job of a cretin.

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