James O'Brien (broadcaster)

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James O'Brien
Born James Edward O'Brien
(1972-01-13) 13 January 1972 (age 46)
Hackney, London, England[1]
Education Ampleforth College
Alma mater London School of Economics
Occupation Journalist, television/radio presenter
Known for LBC, 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][3] Politically, O'Brien prefers to be described as "liberal" rather than "left-wing".[4]


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.[5] In 2015, he published a book on attitudes about immigration, Loathe Thy Neighbour.[6]


From 2000 to 2002, O'Brien was a panellist on the Channel 5 programme The Wright Stuff.

In early 2001, O'Brien presented A Knight with O'Brien,[7] 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".[8] 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).


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.[5]

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.[9] Public comments on Lampard's reaction praised Lampard's "brave" and "articulate" handling of the situation.[9] 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.[10]

In 2013, O'Brien clashed with Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith in an argument over the Government's work programmes.[11] In May 2014, O'Brien interviewed UKIP leader Nigel Farage, which was cut short after Farage objected to questions about his expenses.[12][13] 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.[14] A video of the interview went viral and established O'Brien's national reputation.[15]

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.[16] He enjoys the freedom that LBC gives him to express his views.[15]


O'Brien began occasionally guest presenting on the BBC Two programme Newsnight in August 2014.[17][18][15] 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.[19] The Sun criticised O'Brien's presence on Newsnight, calling him a "professional leftie propagandist".[20] 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.[20]

In 2015, O'Brien presented his own ITV chat show called O'Brien which aired for ten episodes in a daytime slot before it was cancelled.[21]


In 2017, James began hosting a new podcast at JOE.co.uk titled Unfiltered with James O'Brien[22]. The show is described as "a revealing and candid one hour conversation with a different special guest every week, featuring the best from the worlds of sport, politics and entertainment."[23] Guests on the podcast so far have included Russell Brand, Alastair Campbell, Lily Allen, Mark Hamill, Eric Cantona, Jon Ronson, Gary Lineker, Sir Nick Clegg, Robert Webb, Bill Browder, David Baddiel and Matt Lucas.

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] He is a Christian.[27]


  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. ^ O'Brien, James (12 March 2018). "The James O'Brien Show | Employment & University Education - 12 Mar 2018". YouTube. YouTube. Retrieved 12 March 2018. 
  4. ^ "How James O'Brien became the conscience of liberal Britain". www.newstatesman.com. 3 February 2017. Retrieved 2 August 2018. 
  5. ^ a b "James O'Brien". LBC Radio Rocks. Retrieved 25 April 2009. 
  6. ^ "Loathe Thy Neighbour". Amazon.com. 1 May 2015. 
  7. ^ "A Knight with O'Brien (TV series) | BFI". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  8. ^ "Clive James on (election) TV". The Independent. 30 May 2001. Retrieved 25 April 2009. [permanent dead link]
  9. ^ a b "Frank Lampard's call to LBC: The full transcript". The Independent. 24 April 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2009. 
  10. ^ "Sony Radio Academy Awards 2010 – Best Interview Nominations". Sony Radio Academy. Retrieved 19 April 2010. 
  11. ^ "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. 
  12. ^ "Nigel Farage's LBC interview – the key moments". The Guardian. 16 May 2014. Retrieved 9 February 2018. 
  13. ^ "Nigel Farage's LBC interview – the key moments". The Guardian. 16 May 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2018. 
  14. ^ "Nigel Farage aide disrupts interview amid racism and expenses claims". The Guardian. 16 May 2014. Retrieved 9 February 2018. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ "We need to talk: why Britain loves radio phone-ins". The Guardian. 28 January 2018. Retrieved 8 February 2018. 
  17. ^ "Media Monkey's Diary: TV writers, Eddie Mair, Gardeners' Question Time". The Guardian. 3 August 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
  18. ^ "Newsnight's Race To Succeed Jeremy Paxman: LBC's James O'Brien Gets A Try-Out". Forbes. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
  19. ^ "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. 
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ "O'Brien review, ITV: 'disappointing'". Daily Telegraph. 30 March 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2018. 
  22. ^ Rich Cooper, "JOE is delighted to announce a new podcast series with James O'Brien", JOE.co.uk
  23. ^ "Unfiltered with James O'Brien by JOE.co.uk on Apple Podcasts", Apple Podcasts
  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. 
  27. ^ "James O'Brien on Twitter". Twitter. 1 December 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 

External links[edit]