As if the addition to the Sunday morning schedules of Peston On Sunday, with its eponymous host, prominently displayed croissants (ooer), along with Allegra Stratton and Screeny McScreenface (tm) were not enough, Sky News (“first for breaking wind”) has now shuffled the pack and replaced the dependable Dermot Murnaghan with Sophy Ridge, for whom headlining their own show is a definite step up.
Sophy Ridge ((c) Guardian)
Zelo Street regulars may recall that I reviewed the then-new Peston show last May, and concluded that The Andy Marr Show (tm), which precedes it on the BBC, was reasonably safe for now. And the same conclusion has to be reached from looking in on Sophy Ridge On Sunday - this is a show on a channel whose Sunday morning audiences are not large, and there is one significantly-sized obstacle for Ms Ridge to overcome.
That obstacle is a rather large table - or perhaps it’s meant to be a desk - which sat there between Ms Ridge and her first set piece interviewee, Theresa May. It’s like trying to converse across a large dinner table - you end up finding it easier to chat to those to your immediate left and right. But there is no immediate left and right. It puts Ms Ridge at a disadvantage in forming a rapport with the interviewee.
Bear with me on this: on the Marr show, there is no table, desk or indeed anything between the host and his interviewee. It makes for a more intimate, yet challenging, situation. Even the Peston show, where the host sits behind a desk, sits key interviewees to Peston’s right, so they do not have to chat across the desk. Peston’s pundits sit across a table from him, but it is not a substantial obstacle.
As for the Sky “glass box” studio, this, sorry Sky people, is little more than a gimmick. When Ms Ridge is in full interview flow, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a glass box, a more conventional studio as the BBC and ITV use, or indeed any other room fitted out with cameras and suitably wired for sound. And then we come to the pundits.
Yes, I know, this is a subject on which I could go on (and on, and on), but once again bear with me. There is, at times like this, an opportunity to look outside the apparently hermetically sealed media establishment bubble and have someone reviewing the papers who is not part of that establishment. Nobody - and I include Marr and Peston in this - is bringing on young talent, that next generation to which we must inevitably hand over, and put our trust in, in the coming years. Sunday punditry is an apparently closed shop.
We see the same talking heads on all three shows - OK, more MPs on Peston, perhaps - so today brought Julia Hartley Dooda (again) to the Marr show, yapping about how losing the UK’s most experienced European diplomat was A Very Good Thing (er, hello). Even when it’s someone from the Guardian, it’s always the same one or two people. Totally London centric. Totally media establishment centric. No-one else need apply.
Back at Ms Ridge and her new show, her perhaps most significant problem is going to be increasing that audience share. Marr is on right before her, Peston (although not starting his news season until next week) is on at the same time, and back at the BBC, Sunday Politics is on at 1100 hours. Where do you get a look-in? Social media involvement and re-runs will be crucial. And, Sky people, please get rid of that honking great table.