BBC’s HARDtalk Celebrates 20 Years

Stephen Sackur, BBC World News, London, HARDtalk, BBC World Service, GMT, foreign correspondent, BBC Radio 4, author

BBC World News’ flagship interview program HARDtalk will be marking its 20th anniversary with a special edition featuring actor Sir Ian McKellan.

Phoebe Price
Posted by Phoebe Price

HARDtalk host Stephen Sackur will interview McKellen in front of an audience in the BBC’s historic Radio Theatre in London, which will be broadcast in April.

The program launched on BBC World News on 31 March 1997 with award-winning journalist Tim Sebastian as the host. HARDtalk’s first ever guest was British actor and film director Richard Attenborough.

Since then there have been more than 4,500 guests willing to sit in the HARDtalk hot seat, including Nelson Mandela, Donald Trump, Nina Simone, Angelina Jolie, Benazir Bhutto, and Robert Mugabe.

Some notable Aussie guests to have appeared on HARDtalk include Malcolm Turnbull, Julia Gillard, Joe Hockey, Steven Ciobo, and Clive Palmer.

Commenting on the secret of HARDtalk’s longevity and popularity, editor Carey Clark said: “We always have our viewers in mind. They expect us to ask the difficult questions and we don’t shy away from that.

“In a world that is increasingly coloured by misinformation and conjecture, this is a show that holds those in power to account and gets to the heart of the matter.”

Sackur added: “HARDtalk is a unique interview show and I think people see taking part as a badge of honour. Where else do you get half an hour of one-on-one serious, in-depth Q&A to make your case?

“And it’s not about sound bites or political posturing, nor is it a platform for celebs to plug their latest book. It’s intelligent talk. Most guests know and understand that, and it’s when guests are up for it that HARDtalk works well.”

Alongside the Sir Ian McKellen edition, BBC World News and BBC.com are showcasing a raft of content next month, which will include two special programs asking current and former presenters what HARDtalk has meant to them, looking back at the highs and lows, and asking what the changing media landscape means for news media in the future.

In the coming months, the HARDtalk team will also delve into the sho’s extensive archive and showcase the best interviews from the past two decades, as well as content on BBC.com and social media.