Monday, November 01, 2021

Interruption Rate, Marr Show 31.10.2021

 The clue is in the name: The Interruption Rate for broadcast interviewers is the rate at which they interrupt their interviewees.

On the 31st October, Andrew Marr interviewed Alok Sharma, the Tory Minister who is President of the COP26 event, and who trousered a £10,000 donation from a company with interests in oil drilling. 

Marr also interviewed Ed Miliband, past leader of the Labour Party,  Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

There are two main kinds of interruption: Minor, which are vocalisations made while the interviewee is talking such as "yes" and "ok" towards the end of a sentence that indicate another question is on its way, and Major, which are sentences that cut across the flow of the interviewee.

Method: I listened to the recording of the relevant Andrew Marr Show and noted interruptions of both kinds. 

The duration of the Sharma interview was 10min 21 sec, and the Miliband interview was 8 min 34 sec. 

Marr interrupted Sharma with 2 Major and 4 Minors. 

Marr interrupted Miliband with 10 Majors and 12 Minors. 

Miliband interrupted Marr once with a Major, so let us subtract that from Marr's score, giving 9.

To account for the different lengths of interview, we will divide the Majors by the number of seconds in the interview giving an Interruption Per Unit Time (InPUT)

InPUT for Sharma = 0.0048

InPUT for Miliband = 0.0175

Ratio of InPUTs =  3.647. 

The conclusion is that the Interruption Rate that Marr used on Miliband was 3.6 times greater than the rate he used for Sharma.

In a democracy, the aim of interviewers should be to have an Interruption Rate that did not vary significantly between politicians regardless of party, gender, race or belief.

I carried out a similar study on interviews by Andrew Neil in 2015


Greenchutes said...

Richard, thanks for this piece on interruption rate. I've long thought that somebody should write a smartphone app to check interruption rate in interviews. I don't have the skills. If it was Google (or similar) I'm sure they could also check the tone of the interview/interviewer.

DocRichard said...

Hi Greenchutes, that is a good idea. We could have a real time read out on the screen, showing the bias of the interviewer as it is going along.

Of course, some interviewees just ask to be interrupted, when they wander away from the question, but the interviewer can say " I put it to you again" or "Is that a NO then?"