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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 April, 2005, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Paxman special sparks backlash
By Matt Holder
BBC NewsWatch

Jeremy Paxman interviews Charles Kennedy
The interview was the first of three specials with party leaders

Jeremy Paxman's first election head-to-head with one of the three main party leaders has sparked dozens of complaints from viewers.

More than 70 people called and dozens more e-mailed to say the BBC stalwart was "rude and aggressive" during The Paxman Interviews: Charles Kennedy.

The half-hour programme at 1930 BST on BBC One on Monday saw the veteran interviewer tackle the Liberal Democrat leader on a range of topics.

But Paxman's alleged "bullying" style prompted some forthright feedback from the audience.

Several said they welcomed Paxman's tough interview style. Others, meanwhile, simply wanted an assurance that the presenter would be as tough with Michael Howard and Tony Blair as he was with Mr Kennedy.

However, the majority of viewers who contacted the BBC were unimpressed.

Can you ask Jeremy Paxman not to put on that 'I am God' look on his face when he is in the chair?
Viewer Ivan Wain

It is the job of interviewers such as Jeremy Paxman to put the questions press for answers
BBC spokesman

Viewer Andrew Lashbrook said: "Please BBC, don't use Paxman at the next election to do these questions - he's arrogant, smug and rude.

"I wanted to hear what Charles Kennedy had to say, not hear Mr Paxman constantly interrupt him."

Adversarial nature

According to Randall Northam, Paxman showed his "ego and power complex".

He added: "Please stop Jeremy Paxman from being so offensive.

"I'm not a Liberal Democrat supporter but to ask Charles Kennedy if his doctor approved of his drinking and smoking was going too far."

Jeremy Paxman interviews Charles Kennedy
Some viewers said that the interview was excellent and Paxman was on form

Beryl Shorrocks, meanwhile, said: "Paxman should listen more. We look for discussion in this election, not blithering interruption."

The adversarial nature of the interview annoyed James Philpotts who said: "Aside from being downright rude, which I've come to expect from Paxman, I found the interview to be totally unhelpful in understanding a policy."

And Ivan Wain summed up the views of many when he wrote: "Can you ask Jeremy Paxman not to put on that 'I am God' look on his face when he is in the chair?"

Forensic interrogation

Audience condemnation of aggressive interviewing is not new - the BBC often receives complaints about presenters' styles, although not usually on this scale.

A BBC spokesman said: "The BBC believes that political figures and others in positions of responsibility should be given the opportunity both to explain their thinking on matters of public concern and answer criticisms of it.

"It is the job of interviewers such as Jeremy Paxman to put the questions likely to be in the minds of viewers and listeners and to press for answers."

The editor of Radio 4's Today programme, Kevin Marsh, said an adversarial style of interviewing still had its place in news.

He wrote: "Broadcasters have to stop being squeamish about asserting that forensic interrogation by [John] Humphrys, [James] Naughtie and Paxman isn't mere entertainment.

"It is a very small but still a vital part of how we govern ourselves."

The next two Paxman Interviews are being broadcast on Wednesday 20 and Friday 22 April 2005 at 1930 BST on BBC One.

You can also watch the interviews live and on demand from the BBC News Website.


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