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Is it time to turn offthe Today programme?

YES Birdsong, coffee, sunlight streaming through the windows: these are all good things to wake up to in the morning. The Today programme on Radio 4, sadly, is not. I’m not the only one who thinks so. In the last year, Today has lost 800,000 listeners—over 10 per cent of its total. BBC bosses have attributed the ratings fall to a “stabilising period” after a hectic news year in 2017. But the problem goes deeper than that.

The Today programme used to be an essential part of the morning routine in any household keeping abreast of current affairs. Ten years ago, Today didn’t just report the news, it created it. The main interview slot at 8.10am was a place for political heavyweights, often including the prime minister, to face rigorous questioning on a key issue and set the tone for the day’s events.

But interviewees have wised up to Today’s famously aggressive tactics. Politicians now either don’t appear or are mediatrained to sound tediously matey and reasonable. Brexit doesn’t help. It’s a giant topic that needs to be discussed, yet any Brexit coverage squeezed into a 10-minute interview slot feels inevitably like scratching the surface, explaining and solving nothing.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s October issue: Rafael Behr argues that politics has been poisoned by Twitter—the platform often drives the political news agenda, encourages people to descend deeper and deeper into echo chambers and sees MPs and their families regularly abused. Meanwhile, former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger explains how Oxford picks its students and says that more needs to be done for the colleges to be more inclusive. Also, Jasmin Mujanovic outlines how Bosnia’s elections this month could tip the country back into conflict. Elsewhere in the issue: Alex Dean highlights the alarming decline in the number of students studying a foreign language at GCSE and beyond. Will Self reviews a series of new books about liberalism, arguing that “we need more than just social freedoms and the free market.” Aimee Cliff charts the story of the dying dream that London would be a 24-hour city.