All the news you can fit in your ears, and more
bit mean to judge on just a few episodes.) Anushka Asthana, the Guardian’s former joint political editor, is the main presenter. Asthana has plenty of broadcast experience, having worked on Sky News, and her presenting is an excellent mix of relaxed and enquiring. So far, the stories covered have been on point: a report on new Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro; the inevitable US midterms, with Gary Younge; a look at the campaign for a second referendum on Brexit; Britain’s role in the Yemen crisis; what’s wrong with universal credit.
I like the podcast’s easy flipping between national and international, and its ability to lay out the lead-up to a crisis, as well as the crisis itself. I don’t mind the short opinion piece at the end (Georgina Lawton on who gets to identify as black, and naturalist Bernie Krause on changing natural soundscapes, were both excellent). The soundscaping is subtle and sophisticated, which is rare in UK news podcasts. As a news junkie, I’d quite like an extra “what else is going on in the news” feature. But that’s just a quibble. I have subscribed, and Today in Focus has replaced The Daily in my affections.
Evan Davis is back on Radio 4, though he never went that far. His Newsnight experiment is over and he has taken over from Eddie Mair as host of PM. Well, hooray to that. Davis – like Mair – is good on TV, but better on radio, warm and funny. He’s also much better in a late afternoon slot than either early morning or late night, and I enjoyed his “these are the questions we would have asked the government minister about council cuts, had one come on the show” section on Tuesday (very PM!). Davis will have to up his empathy a little to get the amazing real-life interviews that Mair did, but he has had a great start.
Just room for a spot of Mark Kermode. The busiest man in film (and this paper’s lead film critic) has released another show, a podcast, to join his excellent BBC Four TV series, Secrets of Cinema; his live BFI show, MK3D; and his longliving, multi-award-winning 5 Live podcast, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review. (Will this show have to end once Simon Mayo is snapped up by a non-BBC radio station?)
The three episodes of Kermode on Film out so far showcase what we can expect: the first features a lively review section with younger film buff Jack Howard, plus a few clips from MK3D; second, a straightforward recording of MK3D with Hayley Squires, Mike Leigh and Hugh Grant; third, a walk around Belfast with David Holmes, plus another recording of Kermode’s live interview with Desiree Akhavan. I’d like a little more care with the sound production and editing (you can barely hear Kermode in the first show) and a few more podcast-only bits (Hell’s Video Store is fun), but he is great value, as ever.
‘Relaxed and enquiring’: Anushka Asthana in the Today in Focus studio. Photograph by David Levene