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The new Woman’s Hour presenter is a lifelong feminist with a fearless interviewing style

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Anna Brech
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Emma Barnett has been announced as the new presenter of Woman’s Hour, replacing veteran hosts Jane Garvey and Dame Jenni Murray on the flagship radio 4 show. 

From maternity discrimination to shocking levels of online abuse, the list of challenges women face today is formidable – and the need for hard-hitting journalism  that explores these issues is greater than ever.

So it’s heartening to hear that Emma Barnett – a feminist journalist known for her direct and forensic style of interviewing – will be taking over the reins from Jane Garvey and Dame Jenni Murray on the iconic Radio 4 show Woman’s Hour.

While Garvey and Murray currently share a presenting slot between them throughout the week, Barnett – who is a rising star at the BBC – will be shouldering the bulk of the work as the show’s main anchor herself. Another host will be appointed for the Friday and Saturday editions of the show.

“I have a long love of Woman’s Hour and live radio and know that this is a very special and rare opportunity,” Barnett said of her appointment, which begins in the new year.

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Barnett already hosts Late Night Woman’s Hour, along with slots on Newsnight and her award-winning morning show on 5 Live: a programme she will bow out of in order to do the honours for Woman’s Hour.

“I don’t remember ever not being a feminist,” the presenter said in a 2015 interview with Changing People. “[…] As a broadcaster you have a large platform and you begin to provoke reactions. A lot of that reaction is about shutting down female voices.”

Jeremy Paxman named Emma Barnett as his favourite political interrogator

Barnett has built up a reputation for a hard-hitting approach to interviews: so much so that a master in that field, Jeremy Paxman, named her as his favourite political interrogator.

Barnett says she’s not as theatrical as Paxman, though: “I think my tone’s actually quite polite”.

“I’m just not in that [political] world,” she told an interview with The Times last year. “I feel happy and safe to be on the listeners’ side, and ask what they want to know.

“[…] I haven’t always known all the parliamentary mechanisms, so I’m not thinking in Westminster terms, and that can lead to quite normal questions. And weirdly, sometimes normal questions are difficult for politicians to answer.”

jenni murray
Dame Jenni Murray announced she would be stepping down from Woman's Hour earlier this year

Woman’s Hour is one of the longest-running programmes on British radio, offering a uniquely female view on the world and women’s issues since 1946.

Murray, the longest-serving presenter in the show’s history, announced she would be hanging up her microphone after 33 years in the hot seat earlier this year. “Saying goodbye will be very hard to do, but it’s time to move on,” she said.

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Garvey will be following Murray out the door, having announced that she would be leaving Woman’s Hour to focus on another Radio 4 series last week. 

Garvey welcomed today’s appointment of Barnett to the show, saying on Twitter: “The mighty BBC Woman’s Hour marches on.”

Images: BBC/ Helen Roscoe & David Rutter

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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