If anyone should have been alert to the dangers of the microphone – it is John Humphreys!
His off-air banter with BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel over the gender pay gap, has not gone down well!
This is the latest in a litany of “open microphone” gaffs by those who really should know better.
Perhaps the most serious occurred 33 years ago when US President Ronald Reagan was preparing for his weekly radio address. During a sound check, he adapted the introduction of an upcoming story for the amusement of sound engineers:
“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
Although this was never aired, news of this statement was released and there were reports of the Soviet Army being placed on high alert.
Multiple Prime Ministers been caught out by “hot-mics”. David Cameron was captured on camera talking about how the Queen “purred down the line” after he phoned her to say Scotland had voted no to independence. While Gordon Brown’s “bigoted woman” aside was deeply damaging to his election campaign.
Prime Minister John Major, after an interview with ITN’s political editor, forgot about the recording equipment. He called some members of his Cabinet” bastards” and promised to “crucify” them. He commented upon other media reports: “I can’t stop people sleeping with other people if they ought not to.” This was nine years before revelations contained in Edwina Currie’s diaries were to be published!
These mishaps demonstrate just how easy it is for those, steeped in the dangers of the broadcast media, to lose their guard briefly.
In media training session we reinforce the message that to all intents and purposes microphones should be regarded as live, reporters are not your friends, off-the-record does not exist and you are always on duty when a journalist is around.