James O'Brien (broadcaster)

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James O'Brien
James Edward O'Brien

(1972-01-13) 13 January 1972 (age 46)
Hackney, London, England[1]
EducationAmpleforth College
Alma materLondon School of Economics
OccupationJournalist, television/radio presenter
Known forLBC, Newsnight

James Edward O'Brien (born 13 January 1972) is a British journalist, television presenter, radio presenter, and podcaster. He is one of the presenters on talk station LBC, presenting on weekdays between 10 am and 1 pm, hosting a phone-in discussion of current affairs and news, views and real-life experiences. He hosts a weekly interview series with JOE titled Unfiltered with James O'Brien. He has also occasionally presented Newsnight for the BBC.

Early life[edit]

O'Brien was educated at the independent Ampleforth College and later read Philosophy and Economics at the London School of Economics.[2] Politically, O'Brien prefers to be described as "liberal" rather than "left-wing".[3]


Prior to his broadcasting career, O'Brien was an editor of the Daily Express gossip column written under the pseudonym William Hickey, and has had work published in Cosmopolitan and The Spectator.[4] In 2015, he published a book on attitudes about immigration, Loathe Thy Neighbour.[citation needed] On 1 November 2018 he published a book called HOW TO BE RIGHT... in a world gone wrong (ISBN: 9780753553091) in which he spells out how he tries to expose and conquer prejudice. The book achieved one of his childhood dreams when it reached the Sunday Times Top 10 best sellers' list on Sunday 11 November 2018.


From 2000 to 2002, O'Brien was a panellist on the Channel 5 programme The Wright Stuff. In early 2001, he presented A Knight with O'Brien,[5] a talk show on Anglia Television.

With his wife, Lucy (McDonald) O'Brien, he fronted Channel 5's 2001 general election talk show 5 Talk, securing a review from Clive James, who wrote: "James, in particular, is a pink-shirted walking encyclopedia of political savvy".[6] O'Brien and wife Lucy have occasional weekend and Bank Holiday phone-ins for LBC. Other regular appearances include Sky News, The Big Questions (BBC One) and The Alan Titchmarsh Show (ITV).[citation needed]


O'Brien first appeared on LBC during 2002 as a holiday cover presenter. His own weekly programme began in January 2003 and he became a full-time presenter in 2004. Regular features of his show include the "Mystery Hour," in which listeners phone in with various things that puzzle them and other callers attempt to give a solution.[4]

O'Brien made national headlines in April 2009 when footballer Frank Lampard phoned his show to object to tabloid stories about his private life and O'Brien's discussion of them. Lampard's former fiancée, Elen Rivas, had alleged that Frank Lampard had turned their home into a bachelor pad while she and Lampard's children were living in a rented flat. Lampard phoned in, objecting to the assertion that he was "weak" and "scum" and said that he had fought "tooth and nail" to keep his family together.[7] Public comments on Lampard's reaction praised Lampard's "brave" and "articulate" handling of the situation.[7] The exchange later earned O'Brien, who defended his conduct in an equally heated exchange with Kay Burley on Sky News, a Bronze Award in the Best Interview category of the 2010 Sony Radio Academy Awards.[8]

In 2013, O'Brien clashed with Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith in an argument over the Government's work programmes.[9] In May 2014, O'Brien interviewed UKIP leader Nigel Farage, which was cut short after Farage objected to questions about his expenses.[10][11] During the interview, O'Brien picked up on Farage's comment that he felt uncomfortable on a train at not being able to hear anyone speaking English. Farage was also criticised by O'Brien for misinterpreting English as a second language with unable to speak English at all, and for saying he would be concerned if a group of Romanian men moved in next door to him.[12] A video of the interview went viral and established O'Brien's national reputation.[13]

O'Brien has been singled out as a presenter on LBC, as his views have been in sharp contrast to fellow presenters, including Farage, Nick Ferrari and Katie Hopkins, though O'Brien has frequently criticised Jeremy Corbyn.[14] He enjoys the freedom that LBC gives him to express his views.[13] O'Brien sometimes debates Brexit with callers who who voted Leave in the referendum.[15] O'Brien accused the BBC of implicit pro-Brexit bias by employing false equivalence of views on different sides of the debate,[16] an accusation rebutted by BBC journalist John Simpson.[17]


O'Brien began occasionally guest presenting on the BBC Two programme Newsnight in August 2014.[18][19][13] Following the widespread interest in O'Brien's interview with Farage, it was speculated he would be a permanent replacement for longtime host Jeremy Paxman, who intended to step down. The job was ultimately taken by Evan Davis.[20] The Sun criticised O'Brien's presence on Newsnight, calling him a "professional leftie propagandist".[21] O'Brien left Newsnight in January 2018 after being criticised for his anti-Brexit and Trump views, which were felt to be out of step with the corporation's policy on neutrality. He departed on good terms, saying the BBC still had the finest selection of journalists in the world.[21]

In 2015, O'Brien presented an ITV chat show called O'Brien which aired for ten episodes.[22]


In 2017, O'Brien began hosting a new podcast at JOE.co.uk titled Unfiltered with James O'Brien[23]. Guests have included Russell Brand, Alastair Campbell, Lily Allen, Akala, Mark Hamill, Eric Cantona, Jon Ronson, Gary Lineker and Sir Nick Clegg.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

O'Brien was adopted[24] and is of Irish ancestry.[25] He is married to Lucy and has two daughters, who are sometimes mentioned in his LBC radio broadcast discussions.[26]


  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  2. ^ Bland, Archie (24 March 2015). "LBC's James O'Brien: 'You have to be a bit more sledgehammer than scalpel on TV'". theguardian.com. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  3. ^ "How James O'Brien became the conscience of liberal Britain". www.newstatesman.com. 3 February 2017. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  4. ^ a b "James O'Brien". LBC Radio Rocks. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
  5. ^ "A Knight with O'Brien (TV series) | BFI". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Clive James on (election) TV". The Independent. 30 May 2001. Retrieved 25 April 2009.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ a b "Frank Lampard's call to LBC: The full transcript". The Independent. 24 April 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
  8. ^ "Sony Radio Academy Awards 2010 – Best Interview Nominations". Sony Radio Academy. Retrieved 19 April 2010.
  9. ^ "Iain Duncan Smith: Remembering the time former Work and Pensions Secretary clashed with James O'Brien". The Independent. 19 March 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  10. ^ "Nigel Farage's LBC interview – the key moments". The Guardian. 16 May 2014. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  11. ^ "Nigel Farage's LBC interview – the key moments". The Guardian. 16 May 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  12. ^ "Nigel Farage aide disrupts interview amid racism and expenses claims". The Guardian. 16 May 2014. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  13. ^ a b c "James O'Brien: "On radio, people still talk like no one is listening"". The Guardian. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  14. ^ "We need to talk: why Britain loves radio phone-ins". The Guardian. 28 January 2018. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  15. ^ "James O'Brien demolishes Leave voter in farcical on-air standoff". The Independent. 11 July 2017. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  16. ^ "Media impartiality problem when ignorance given same weight as expertise". The New Statesman. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  17. ^ "BBC news is not biased in Brexit reporting says John Simpson". The Guardian. 28 Aug 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  18. ^ "Media Monkey's Diary: TV writers, Eddie Mair, Gardeners' Question Time". The Guardian. 3 August 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  19. ^ "Newsnight's Race To Succeed Jeremy Paxman: LBC's James O'Brien Gets A Try-Out". Forbes. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  20. ^ "LBC's James O'Brien: "You have to be a bit more sledgehammer than scalpel on TV"". The Guardian. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  21. ^ a b "James O'Brien parts ways with BBC Newsnight rather than 'wind neck in' on Brexit and Trump". Press Gazette. 22 January 2018. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  22. ^ "O'Brien review, ITV: 'disappointing'". Daily Telegraph. 30 March 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  23. ^ Rich Cooper, "JOE is delighted to announce a new podcast series with James O'Brien", JOE.co.uk
  24. ^ Cooke, Sarah (20 April 2014). "LBC: from heartbreak to banter to political hot potatoes". The Guardian.
  25. ^ Incorrigible Forever (26 July 2016). "James O'Brien vs hate crime in schools" – via YouTube.
  26. ^ "How James O'Brien became the conscience of liberal Britain". New Statesman. 3 February 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2018.

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