Biters bit as Tony Benn grills big beast interviewers

The tables are turned in a Channel 4 documentary this weekend, when Jeremy Paxman, Jon Snow, Nick Robinson and John Humphrys are questioned by former MP Tony Benn.

Tony Benn Interviewing The Interviewers will air on Saturday 12 August at 7.10pm.

The programme was originally only supposed to be half an hour, but on the strength of the material that Benn had gathered, programme makers Mentorn decided to extend it to an hour-long feature.

Benn told Press Gazette: "My purpose was two-fold: first of all to find out what they thought, and secondly to try and show how a decent interview could be done, because I don't believe you get the best by bullying people and interrupting.

"So I didn't interrupt, I listened to what they said and then I put another question and so on. I thought as a result of that, they were able to say what they really thought."

Benn challenged the journalists’ views on coverage of trade unions, local elections, accountability, political interviews as a spectator sport and the "ungentlemanly art" of the interruption.

The Today programme’s John Humphreys admits he occassionally gets carried away interrupting. He says: "I’ve become a bit more mellow. I overdo it sometimes, I am aware of that."

Jon Snow of Channel 4 News, says one of the reasons why he has suceeded in television journalism is because he has limited intellect. He says: "Therefore I’ve tended to ask reasonably simple questions, which the medium is at peace with."

BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson, discusses current weakness in political reporting. He told Benn: "We are not good at saying ‘let’s keep looking at those things that make a difference to people’s lives.'"

On accountability, Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman told Benn: "Periodically the editor will come and

say ‘you’ve made a right mess of that’, but I think my accountability is to the viewer.”

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