James O'Brien (broadcaster)
James Edward O'Brien
13 January 1972
|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.
O'Brien was educated at the independent Ampleforth College and later read Philosophy and Economics at the London School of Economics. Politically, O'Brien prefers to be described as "liberal" rather than "left-wing".
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. In 2015, he published a book on attitudes about immigration, Loathe Thy Neighbour. 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.
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". 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.
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. Public comments on Lampard's reaction praised Lampard's "brave" and "articulate" handling of the situation. 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.
In 2013, O'Brien clashed with Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith in an argument over the Government's work programmes. In May 2014, O'Brien interviewed UKIP leader Nigel Farage, which was cut short after Farage objected to questions about his expenses. 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. A video of the interview went viral and established O'Brien's national reputation.
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. He enjoys the freedom that LBC gives him to express his views. O'Brien sometimes debates Brexit with callers who who voted Leave in the referendum. O'Brien accused the BBC of implicit pro-Brexit bias by employing false equivalence of views on different sides of the debate, an accusation rebutted by BBC journalist John Simpson.
O'Brien began occasionally guest presenting on the BBC Two programme Newsnight in August 2014. 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. The Sun criticised O'Brien's presence on Newsnight, calling him a "professional leftie propagandist". 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.
In 2017, O'Brien began hosting a new podcast at JOE.co.uk titled Unfiltered with James O'Brien. Guests have included Russell Brand, Alastair Campbell, Lily Allen, Akala, Mark Hamill, Eric Cantona, Jon Ronson, Gary Lineker and Sir Nick Clegg.
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- Rich Cooper, "JOE is delighted to announce a new podcast series with James O'Brien", JOE.co.uk
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