It’s a question which is posed with depressing regularity because it is never answered to anyone’s satisfaction. Are there too many male voices on Today, Radio Four’s flagship current affairs programme?
Anyone would think we were talking about a group of backing singers rather than the presenting line-up for the most demanding current affairs programme in British broadcasting.
The query made its latest appearance on the station’s Feedback programme, when right-on presenter Roger Bolton questioned Today’s editor about the matter in a tone which suggested some major crime had been committed.
Unfortunately, nobody ever seems to study this issue in the round. Were they to do so, it would quickly become apparent that Radios Four and Five Live are crammed with female presenters.
In virtually every case they are round pegs snuggled comfortably into round holes – and they are there because they deserve to be and not simply to fulfil some fatuous concept of sexual equality.
Take Five Live, for example. Eleanor Oldroyd is a magnificently accomplished sports broadcaster and capable of turning her hand to any subject. Shelagh Fogarty, Anita Anand and Aasmah Mir are best known for sharing presenting duties with men – but they are genuine partners when it comes to intelligent banter.
Unfortunately, there are others like Victoria Derbyshire, who always sounds as if someone has just stamped on her favourite doll. She is an intellectual lightweight who believes she can compensate by sounding sardonic and slightly snotty.
She is similar in this respect to Sarah Montague, the only female presenter currently working on Today, who has the hugely irritating habit of dropping her voice to convey gravitas, causing listeners to lunge for their volume control at regular intervals.
There is always the vague suspicion she has not really mastered her brief and you can hear the wariness creep into her voice if she is forced away from the crib sheet.
The last convincing female member of the Today team was Sue MacGregor, who retired nine long years ago.
Let’s just wait for a natural successor and not force the issue.