Listeners left divided as Emma Barnett makes debut as BBC Radio 4 Today host

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Listeners were left divided as Emma Barnett made her debut as the host of the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4

Emma Barnett's debut as host of BBC Radio 4's Today Programme has split listeners; although many applauded her for 'being a breath of fresh air,' others were left feeling uneasy by a statement she made about sex education.The 39-year-old presenter previously hosted Woman’s Hour on the same channel until her recent departure.

Having served as a BBC 5 Live host for six years, Barnett stepped into her new role on Radio 4's Today programme, replacing Martha Kearney. She kicked off the show with enthusiasm alongside co-host Amol Rajan. However, a comment she made about "putting bananas on condoms" during a discussion on Rishi Sunak's review of England's sex education policy drew mixed reactions from listeners.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She introduced the show, saying: “Good morning, what a pleasure to be here. It's six o'clock on Wednesday May 15. This is Today with Amol Rajan and Emma Barnett.”

She said: “Now to sex and relationship education as you were just hearing in the bulletins. Do you remember yours? Did you have any? Was it worth it? Did they teach you anything? Some might remember it boiling down to a very awkward teacher putting a condom on a banana - or was that just my experience? The Prime Minister ordered a review into it and new guidance is expected as soon as tomorrow.”

Emma Barnett makes her debut as BBC Radio 4 Today host Emma Barnett makes her debut as BBC Radio 4 Today host
Emma Barnett makes her debut as BBC Radio 4 Today host

While some fans welcomed her earlier appearance on the show, yet others found her joke about "putting bananas on condoms" inappropriate for that early hour. One listener said: “Emma Barnett should remember she is not on Woman's Hour. Another said: “Just woke up in a panic thinking I'd slept in and was listening to Emma Barnett.”

Despite the divide, Barnett's interview with a member of a Ukrainian punk band, who performed with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, was well-received by many. She also interviewed Conservative MP Chris Philp where they talked about current political news including the Rwanda scheme and the upcoming general elections.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

One said: “Wow! Emma Barnett’s quality of interviewing is simply outstanding: polite, yet razor-sharp . She made mince meat of Chris Philp, not letting him get away with any of his lies and gaslighting. That’s how it’s done!” Another listener said: “Very much enjoying Emma Barnett presenting on BBC Radio 4. Enjoyed her technique of her trying to elicit an answer from a cabinet minister about when we might have a GE.”

Others were left feeling impressed with her interview skills, saying: “I thought Emma Barnett absolutely knocked it out of the park on BBC Radio 4 Today this morning. A breath of fresh air.”

Barnett then took to social media to thank people for tuning in to the programme. She said: “That’s a wrap. 1st @bbcradio4 breakfast programme done. Thank you to our incredible listeners and the whole@BBCr4today team. And of course, @amalrojan. Thrilling to play some ace tunes at the end from my new Today programme playlist. And yes we did end on Led Zepp and Britney.”

Barnett left Woman’s Hour on April 11, praising the “amazing” show, stating it will “remain a part of me forever”. Woman's Hour, which airs on Radio 4 for an hour from 10am to 11am, focuses on women's issues and tales, as well as more light-hearted programming. Emma's farewell broadcast included talks with American activist Gloria Steinem and British soul singer Rebecca Ferguson. Ferguson and the Woman's Hour team then surprised Barnett with a highlight reel of her most memorable moments from the show, featuring clips from her interviews with Liz Truss, Nadine Dorries, Jodie Comer, and Kate Winslet.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.