BBC Radio 4’s Today to mark 60 years on air
John Humphrys has presented the show for more than half that time.
BBC Radio 4’s flagship news programme, Today, will mark 60 years on air on Saturday.
One of the show’s longest-serving presenters, Brian Redhead, summed up the programme’s reputation for setting the news agenda when he said: “If you want to drop a word in the ear of the nation, you go on Today. If you want to whistle in the wind, you appear on breakfast TV.”
Among the items featured on Today’s very first edition on Monday 28 October 1957 were an interview with a pilot at London Airport, a report on the sale of Napoleon’s letters and a review of some of the latest record releases.
Over the course of its 60 years on the air, Today has evolved from a programme initially broadcast in two short chunks at 7.15 and 8.15am, to a two-hour show running from 7am, to a three-hour show from 6am Mondays to Fridays and 7 to 9am on Saturdays.
For much of the 1960s and early 1970s, the programme began with a short “keep fit” slot, presented by the instructor Eileen Fowler.
Other novelties included a period when the show was broadcast simultaneously from London and Manchester with one presenter in each city, and a signature tune composed by Johnny Dankworth called One For Today.
The programme won its reputation for hard-hitting political interviews during the 1980s, when millions started tuning in to hear the latest grilling of a government minister.
Prime minister Margaret Thatcher was a regular listener to the show, famously ringing the programme live one morning in 1988 to update John Humphrys on a story about an earthquake in Armenia.
The 1980s was also when Today first came under fire from critics who said it was sometimes too aggressive and rude when quizzing politicians.
During one fiery interview in 1987 between Redhead and the Conservative chancellor of the exchequer Nigel Lawson, Mr Lawson accused the presenter of having been “a supporter of the Labour Party all your life”. Redhead responded by suggesting the programme have a “one-minute silence… for you to apologise for daring to suggest that you know how I vote”.
Today has long been famous for making the news as well as reporting on it, and its 60th year has been no exception.
In July 2017 it emerged that Sarah Montague, one of the show’s two female presenters, is paid under £150,000 – far below the salary of between £600,000 and £649,000 enjoyed by fellow host Humphrys.
A list published by the BBC of the salaries of its highest-earning stars revealed that Today’s other female host, Mishal Husain, is paid between £200,000 and £249,000.
The two other presenters, Nick Robinson and Justin Webb, were reported to be on salaries of between £250,000 to £299,000 and £150,000 to £199,000 respectively.
Humphrys is the longest-serving presenter in the history of Today, having appeared on the show for 30 of the 60 years it has been on the air.
Other hosts to have served long stints on the programme include Jim Naughtie (1994-2015) and Sue MacGregor (1984-2002), while Redhead appeared from 1975 to 1993.
Here are the longest-serving regular presenters of the Today programme:
John Humphrys: 30 years, 269 days (1987 to date)
Jim Naughtie: 21 years, 291 days (1994-2015)
Brian Redhead: 18 years, 25 days (1975-1993)
Sue MacGregor: 17 years, 170 days (1984-2002)
Sarah Montague: 15 years, 238 days (2002 to date)
John Timpson: 15 years, 77 days (1970-76, 1978-86)
Peter Hobday: 13 years, 59 days (1983-96)
Jack de Manio: 12 years, 339 days (1958-71)