PJ Harvey radio show sparks complaints

Last updated 11:33 03/01/2014

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A BBC move to have musician P J Harvey as a festive season editor of its Today radio programme has produced a show that divided listeners, upset MPs and sparked a string of complaints.

Harvey put WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in charge of Thought for the Day, and gave journalist John Pilger an open forum to criticise the BBC and US President Barack Obama.

She introduced Assange as a "person of great courage" and he refused to back down on his choice to leak government secrets.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams read his poem entitled Passion Plays, while there was more music than usual on the show.

Instead of broadcasting the weather forecast, Harvey played American Tom Waits growling out his song Strange Weather, with music also from Joan Baez and New Zealand comedy duo Flight Of The Conchords.

Presenters Sarah Montague and Mishal Husain spent much of the show reminding listeners it was designed by Harvey, and Twitter was awash with opinions about the merits of her choices.

Polly Jean Harvey has released strongly political albums, such as the Let England Shake, and recorded a tribute to Guantanamo Bay prisoner Shaker Aamer. She has been awarded an Order of the British Empire.

Her show was attacked in some quarters. The Daily Mail called it the "worst ever" version of Today, with other commentators echoing that opinion.

David Jones MP, led a stream of criticism online, tweeted the show was unusual and "have to wonder who extended the invitation".

The BBC said it had received 37 complaints.

Other guest editors have been traveller, broadcaster and Monty Python star Sir Michael Palin, and Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web.

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- Fairfax Media

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