Graham Linehan blasts Today

Claims Radio 4 'ambushed' him

Comedy writer Graham Linehan has hit out at Radio 4’s Today programme, accusing presenters of contriving artificial rows and reducing debate ‘harmful squabbling’.

The Father Ted co-creator said he was ‘ambushed’ on the flagship show on Monday, when he was invited on to talk about his stage remake of the classic Ealing comedy The Ladykillers.

As he prepared to go on, he found that he was to be drawn into an ‘adversarial fight’ with critic Michael Billington about the wisdom of the project.

In a techy exchange, Linehan told host Justin Webb that he refused to be drawn into what he now calls ‘a typical Today programme bunfight’ about whether his work was futile.

Now the IT Crowd writer has complained on his blog about his treatment on the ‘little fight club’, saying: ‘What a treat it was to be able to complain directly to Today's pompous John Humphrys stand-in about the squabbling that passes for debate on that program.

‘The style of debate practised by the Today programpoisons discourse in this country. An arena where there are no positions possible except diametrically opposed ones, where no nuance is permitted ... none of it is any good for the national conversation.’

He also accused Today of ‘little bits of dishonesty’ in not briefing him properly about the true nature of the piece.

A BBC spokesman said last night: ‘There was certainly no intention to “ambush” Mr Linehan and we are sorry if he took it that way. t should come as no surprise to any Today listener, or guest, that the debates on the programme by nature are lively, informative and challenging at times.’

Linehan also had a brief Twitter exchange with presenter Evan Davis who said: ‘We occasionally have items that sound like a parody of the "let's have an argument" variety. But I really didn't think that of yesterday's. It was convivial and constructive, although obviously didn't feel like it to Graham.’

The writer messaged back that ‘I was talking about the way they frame debates when people have to play. Binary arguments, no insight, gladiatorial.’

Hear Monday's interview here.

Published: 8 Jun 2011

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