Emma Barnett to present Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour


Broadcaster Emma Barnett will be the new presenter of Woman’s Hour.

The 5 Live and Newsnight presenter will step into the shoes of Jane Garvey and Dame Jenni Murray, who have both decided to step down from the show.

Barnett is already associated with the Radio 4 programme, presenting its late-night spin-off and regularly chairing the Woman’s Hour Power List.

She first hosted Woman’s Hour at the age of 26, making her the youngest presenter in the show’s history.

Woman’s Hour, which offers a female perspective on the world, is one of the longest-running programmes on British radio, first launching in 1946 on the BBC Light Programme.

The 45-minute show is broadcast every morning at 10:00 on BBC Radio 4.

Staff on the show were told of Barnett’s appointment on Monday morning.

Unlike the current arrangement, where Garvey and Dame Jenni share presenting duties, Barnett will be the main host from Monday to Thursday each week. An additional presenter will be appointed to host the Friday and Saturday editions.

“I can’t wait to get to know the many listeners of Woman’s Hour a lot, lot better,” said the presenter.

“What adventures we are going to have together – all starting in the year that this BBC institution, the radio mothership, turns 75.

“I have a long love of Woman’s Hour and live radio and know that this is a very special and rare opportunity.”

The move will mean the end of Barnett’s mid-morning show on 5 Live, which has seen presenter named best speech broadcaster at the 2020 Radio Academy Awards (ARIAs) and radio broadcaster of the year 2018 by the Broadcasting Press Guild.

She will continue to present Newsnight on BBC Two.

Co-hosts stepping down

Garvey, who has hosted the show since 2007, announced she was leaving last week.

“It’s been a real privilege to play a small part in the history of this very special radio programme,” she said, adding how proud she was of its relationship with its listeners.

“On one unforgettable day, I interviewed David Cameron in the morning, and Mary J Blige in the afternoon. There’s no other job like it,” she said.

“But famous people are not the reason people engage with Woman’s Hour. It’s because the programme still talks about the subjects and challenges no one else goes near. I’m very proud of our relationship with the audience and the trust they place in us.”

Garvey will now go on to host her own new Radio 4 series in the new year.

Woman's Hour presenters Jenni Murray (left) and Jane Garvey in 2016
Image captionWoman’s Hour presenters Jenni Murray (left) and Jane Garvey in 2016

Earlier this summer, Garvey’s colleague Dame Jenni Murray announced she was to leave the show after 33 years.

Dame Jenni, who is the longest-serving presenter in the Radio 4 show’s 74-year history, will present her final show on 1 October.

From the ‘graveyard’ to 5 Live

Barnett started her career with the trade publication Media Week before joining the Daily Telegraph as its first digital media editor.

She was later appointed women’s editor – where she steered coverage away from fashion and celebrities towards more weighty issues, and launched the award-winning site Telegraph Wonder Women.

She started broadcasting on the commercial radio station LBC in 2011, initially working on the late night “graveyard shift”, and jumped ship to 5 Live in 2014.

There, she established herself as a fearless and inquisitive interviewer. The Times dubbed her “the BBC’s new Rottweiler”, while Jeremy Paxman described her as his favourite political interviewer.

“Being interviewed on the radio by Barnett is like being interviewed by a basketful of cobras,” observed The Telegraph’s Charlotte Runcie last year. “She is single-handedly rebuilding the BBC’s reputation as the home of the heavyweight political interview.”

Media captionJeremy Corbyn on Woman’s Hour

During the 2017 election campaign, Barnett made headlines while questioning Jeremy Corbyn, then-leader of the Labour Party, over the cost of his party’s plan to offer free childcare to two-year-olds.

While Corbyn struggled to remember the details of his plan, Barnett gave listeners a running commentary: “You’re logging into your iPad… you’ve had a phone call while you’re in here and you don’t know how much it’s going to cost.”

Afterwards, Barnett received a hostile response from some Corbyn supporters, who accused her of being “biased” and a “Tory”.

He later defended the presenter, saying: “Under no circumstances whatsoever should anyone throw personal abuse at anyone else because they’re doing the job they they’ve been employed to do.”

Barnett also made broadcasting history by hosting the BBC’s first joint live radio and TV phone-in with a Prime Minister, Theresa May.

The broadcaster, who booked the interview herself, spent two days rehearsing the encounter, with her editor standing in as the Prime Minister.

She told the Express she had prepared three separate versions of her questions, so she could switch her response depending on May’s reactions. “An interview is an intellectual game of chess,” she said. “Especially one like that.”

Media captionThe Duchess of Cornwall says the “worst bit” of lockdown has been not seeing her family

Earlier this year, she hosted her 5 Live show from Clarence House where Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, guest edited the programme and discussed life under lockdown.

Last year, Barnett published her first book, It’s About Bloody Time, Period – a frank, funny and myth-busting exploration of menstruation.

Motivated by her own experiences of endometriosis and IVF, the book aimed to break the taboos around discussing periods and fertility.

“Women’s issues are everyone’s issues,” she told students at the London School of Economics at the time.

“I really enjoy disrupting what is expected of me. Don’t get yourself put in a box.”

After news broke of her new role at Women’s Hour, fellow broadcasters and fans shared their congratulations online.

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