John Humphrys says 'there's a lot wrong' with the BBC on his final Today show

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
John Humphrys, in the radio studio, during a broadcast of Today, the flagship programme on BBC Radio Four. (Photo by Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images)

Veteran broadcast John Humphrys paid a back-handed complement to the BBC during his final Today show, which was broadcast on Radio 4 this morning.

Minutes after BBC director-general Lord Hall showered him with praise in
the studio, Humphrys said there is a "lot wrong" with the BBC "as an organisation", adding "there is a lot wrong with every organisation".

The broadcasting heavyweight, who will continue to host BBC show Mastermind, said: "It's facing massive challenges from social media and changing behaviour but I believe we need the BBC as much now as we have ever done.

"I simply cannot imagine this country without it. It is an unthinkable thought."

Earlier, he had quizzed Lord Hall over the decision to means-test the TV licence for over-75s.

Broadcaster John Humphrys leaves New Broadcasting House after presenting his final show on the Today programme. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)

Humphrys ended his final Today programme broadcast thanking those he had interviewed during his 32 years at the helm of the show, "including the politicians, or at least those of them, the vast majority, who still recognise it is important that people in power should be held to account, even if just occasionally we might give them a hard time".

Sports broadcaster Garry Richardson told Humphrys: "It's been a pleasure working with you... You've been an outstanding presenter on the Today programme, one of Britain's great broadcasters, a job very well done."

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But he also quipped: "If I lent you two or three grand and I didn't see you again for three or four years, it would be money well spent."

Humphrys, famous for his on-air interrogations of political figures, discussed his combative technique in an interview with Mr Blair.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair (right) during an interview with John Humphrys on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Wednesday May 4, 2005. (Photo by Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images)

The pair also chatted about how many politicians now deal directly with people on social media instead of being interviewed by journalists.

Humphrys admitted critics say "the problem with the Today programme interview, for instance... is that it's too confrontational, too argumentative... and (we) put ourselves on a pedestal..."

He added: "I don't think I'm the only target... I am a seeker of truth."

Humphrys joined Today in January 1987.

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He has sparked controversy with his interviews over the years and co-host Justin Webb - on-air for his final show - recently said many of the veteran broadcaster's most vociferous critics are ageist.

Today programme editor Sarah Sands said: "Losing John in the mornings is a bit like Big Ben being silenced. I will miss his restlessness, his capacity for delight, his profound curiosity and his humanity."

Today presenter and journalist John Humphrys in 1991. (Photo by Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images)

Dame Edna Everage helped send off John Humphrys on his final day presenting the Today programme. The flagship BBC Radio 4 show lined up final interviews for Humphrys with former prime ministers David Cameron and Tony Blair.

But the broadcaster quipped "they've been just a little overshadowed" by Dame Edna, the alter-ego of Barry Humphries. Humphrys asked whether Dame Edna had "any words of guidance for somebody like me, who is retiring from a job after a very long time doing it".

Dame Edna replied with a rhyme, saying: "How I loved to hear you sing when you and I had that tempestuous fling.

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"But I've always been discreet about our lives and I've never breathed a word to your ex-wives.

"The Queen told me, before you grow much older, her sword will descend upon the Humphrys shoulder.

"Her voice is quiet, it doesn't really carry. She might have said 'John' but she probably meant 'Barry'.

"You won't grow old, you'll just get nicely mellow. So hug your trees, play Elgar on your cello."

Humphrys responded: "You can't follow that, really."

With reporting by PA

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