Helen Martin: Jon Snow’s ‘gagging’ of Alex Salmond was a disgrace

Jon Snow hardly let Alex Salmond get a word in edge-ways. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Jon Snow hardly let Alex Salmond get a word in edge-ways. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
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ONCE upon a time, the purpose of a TV interview was to extract information and sometimes to ask challenging questions with the aim of enlightening and educating the public about the subject under discussion. Nowadays that approach is more likely to be found on chat shows.

When it comes to news and especially politics on TV today, the interviewer’s goal seems to be showing off how much aggression they can display.

Laura Kuenssberg, Jeremy Paxman and many others have become known for their often goading, theatrical style which creates drama, albeit claiming to “represent the viewer”, as they score points against the celebrity, politician or whoever is in the hot seat.

But the worst performance I have ever seen was Channel 4 News’ Jon Snow “interviewing” Alex Salmond about his new chat show, controversially being screened by RT, formerly known as Russia Today.

The station is funded by the Russian government and it would have been interesting to hear Mr Salmond’s explanation as to why his production company chose to take that route. Bear in mind the BBC is funded by the UK government via a compulsory licensing tax.

READ MORE: Viewers react to the first Alex Salmond Show on RT

Unfortunately, Salmond couldn’t get a word in edge-ways to answer the questions. Once a few words had left his mouth, Snow came back with another avalanche of hostility, an antagonistically re-phrased question, and if Salmond paused for a nano-second to draw breath, Snow was back on the attack again.

For a viewer, the entire exercise was a waste of time.

I’m not a blind supporter of Salmond, and nor am I signed up to the SNP. As I’ve often written in this column, I am a classic floating voter. Which is why, when I watch an interview, be it with Big Eck or Theresa May, I expect to learn something from it rather than view a battle akin to a verbal doing.

But if the interviewee chair is the “hot seat”, Snow might as well have gagged Salmond and chained his backside to a flaming barbecue.

There is one point which I think Mr Salmond may not have had the chance, or the brass neck, to raise with Snow.

RT may well be biased in terms of Russian politics, news and state involvement around the world. But it is developing a reputation for its “outsider” coverage being more objective, particularly relating to Europe and the UK.

Among younger people here in their 20s and 30s, it is growing in popularity for its ability to be even-handed in a way that British broadcasters no longer are.

Several daily newspapers in the UK have always had a political angle, such as the Daily Mail, the Express and the Telegraph being solidly Tory with the Daily Mirror and the Guardian being laboriously Labour. Pay the cover price and choose your political allegiance.

For many years, broadcasting appeared slightly less skewed. The BBC used to boast about its accuracy and integrity, Channel 4 was initially based on a fresh alternative to the mainstream. Channel 4 News used to be my favourite. But the current fashion for aggressive presenters building up their own egos and status rather than extracting facts and information for public consumption has changed all that.

What is the point of asking newsworthy individuals searching questions if they have no opportunity to answer them?