Some Tips for Dealing with Hostile TV Interviewers

I have been thinking about all those poor folk who are invited to appear on TV only to find themselves ambushed by the BBC and Channel 4. For example being invited on to talk about your book and then simply being personally attacked, but with no mention of your book at all. (Like Rod Liddle on Newsnight recently.)

For anyone going on the BBC or Channel 4, the first thing you can do is ask for a different chair (giving an excuse such as having a bad back). The producers will have arranged the set in a particular way for their own purposes . If they have no other agenda than to hear what you have to say, then it will not matter what chair you sit in or where you sit. By asking for a different chair you interrupt their power in this regard and interfere a little with their agenda.

Assume that the producers will have designed the set and plotted the lighting and camera angles to make you look bad.

So, when you get your new chair move it into a different position, that makes it harder for the tech guys to follow the producers’ plans for you. Just 6 inches to the right or left or forward or back is enough!

If you can reposition yourself entirely – even better. You might say the lights affect your eyes in the place they put you, and move.

They will probably have designed it so that you appear in front of a particular image – probably on the back screen. (Subliminal manipulation of the viewers.) So if you put yourself somewhere else, it throws them and it also makes you look better than you would have.

2. When the interviewer turns to talk to you, you want to begin to talk BEFORE they ask a question. Be nice and polite and smile at everyone saying something like “Thank you SO much for inviting me to talk about my book, I am delighted to be here ….” By speaking first you introduce the topic which you were invited to speak about and thereby make it difficult for the interviewer to ignore that topic. You are also taking leadership in the conversation, which makes it harder for the interviewer to dominate the direction of the interview. Your speaking first makes it more difficult for them to follow their bullet points and attack you.

3. To respond to insults keep Mrs Thatcher’s strategy in mind. No matter what you think of her she was good at this! When they say something insulting like “You are a racist aren’t you?”, answer in a gentle and slightly disappointed voice, with some version of ‘Now, Dear … lets not be so hasty ….’

Ann Widdecombe did her version of the ‘Now Dear’ strategy recently, when she said “I know that you’re bright enough to understand an argument …” Her whole interview here is a master class in clear argument, and not letting the interviewer get away with anything , it is well worth watching here: https://youtu.be/yxlh3BhaGbU

And rehearse!

Role play with a friend before you go on TV or radio interviews. You are going to play a role, so you need to make sure you have your own script and you know it inside out.
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Always bring a notebook and pen. (Claire Fox does this)

Write down any insults

a) so you have a record

b) so you can calmly address them when you eventually get the chance.


If you are going to quote, bring those with you too in really large print.

And remember to bring your book and show it to the camera.

TV programmes use props and sets and lighting to get their message across and so can you. You can use your pen and notebook as props,

e.g. pointing with the pen to make a point, writing furiously while nonsense is being spoken etc.

Another useful prop is to have a cup of water with you. Any object which you can use and is not in their plan will do because simply introducing things on to the set, objects that they have not planned for, will help you!

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Creating Diversity in Thinking in Boards & Senior Management

The more alike the Board members or senior managers are (to each other) the larger is the challenge  to counter the acquired tendency for people in groups to think alike.

So one of the things I do with groups of managers and Board members is to elicit difference. Initially I suggest to them new ways of thinking about questions that they raise. I show them how to think in new ways by modelling different and alternative ways of thinking.

Then I train them as individuals to think  in new ways – to think more critically and also to think more creatively. Once individuals in the group begin to practise thinking in new ways,  I train the group to think differently to each other and to be able to present differing, even contradictory,  ideas and theories to the whole group.

I create diversity in thinking in ‘mono-cultural’ conceptual environments.

It is both difficult and uncomfortable for people to change their thinking. Moreover it is psychologically difficult to be different to their peers. However it is essential that the Boards and senior management of large corporations and large organisations can generate alternative solutions to problems. And to be able to generate alternatives, there must be some different ideas put forward for consideration.

Ethics and Philosophy in the Boardroom

Dr. McCall  created and delivered two workshops for Edinburgh University Business School with one of their major corporate clients:

1) Ethics in the Boardroom

With the Maritime company  Dr. McCall led an investigation into the question

“Is it ethical to do business with an organisation that you suspect might be unethical?”.

using a real case in which the client corporation did not know, but suspected, that a company bidding for a contract with them was unethical. The ‘bidding company’ was offering the lowest price. The client had a duty to take the lowest bid  – value for money – but also felt a duty not to support unethical practices leading to a moral conflict.

2) Philosophy in the Boardroom

Dr McCall led the client corporation in a Philosophical  investigation of  the nature and role of ‘Vision’ in a private company. Following conceptual analysis of the the nature of ‘Vision’ Dr. McCall guided the group in analysing the Vision Statement of the client corporation that resulted in the re-writing of the corporate Vision document.

Privacy and Doing CoPI with groups

While being interviewed about  The Philosophy Doctor last week , an important issue came up: the issue of privacy. One of the features of my CoPI method that makes it different from other discussion or dialogue practises is that I do not require participants to put forward their own personal opinions. They may if they wish, but their contribution to the dialogue does not have to be their opinion , only their thinking. So I tell every group that participants may not assume that what they hear from someone in the group  is their personal opinion , it might be the opposite of their private opinion.

When I work with groups , I am not investigating any person in the group. Rather I am using the thinking that is contributed by a participant to weave into a philosophical dialogue.

Being interviewed by Ed Weijers from The Netherlands I was explaining that privacy is a big issue in the UK at the moment. What is at issue I think is whether any agency has the right to intrude into a person’s personal private life ?

Do the newspapers, the government, your employers have a right to know about your private life?

Or do you have the right to keep areas of your life personal and private?