Closing an interview

In day-to-day conversation, closing a conversation requires both participants to clear the floor. That is, each has to offer the floor to the other and only when neither has anything more to contribute can the conversation close. If you have ever tried to get off the phone from a friend who doesn’t want to finish the conversation, you know how difficult this can be sometimes.

Radio and TV interviews can be brutally different however as Barry Gardiner, Labour’s shadow International Trade Secretary, found out while being interviewed this morning by Nick Robinson of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

In current affairs interviews, the interviewer has certain rights to the floor, one of which is the right to say when the interview is at an end. Most interviewers give their interviewees a hint as to when the end is coming, often through non-verbal signals, paralinguistic features such as intonation or explicit discourse markers.

‘Thank you very much indeed’

These seemed to be in short supply when Nick Robinson (NR) closed his interview with Barry Gardiner (BG) this morning. Gardiner was in the midst of explaining ‘future arrangements with the rest of the world’ when Robinson interrupted to abruptly terminate the 10-minute long interview in line 09-10 below. This caught Gardiner by surprise and he let out a short expression of laughter after a 0.8 second pause. Robinson then closed off the interview permanently by re-stating the name and position of his guest.

01 BG: ...
02     er determines
03     the policy that our government has
04     f- for what will be
05     the future arrangements
06     with the rest of the world
07     for the next
08     forty or [fifty years .hhh=
09 NR:          [Barry Gardiner
10     thank [you \very much indeed
11 BG:       [=and
12     (0.8) hhh
13 NR: Barry Gardiner
14     Labour’s shadow international trade secretary
15     from Westminster

    BG = Barry Gardiner   NR = Nick Robinson (interviewer)

External link to clip

Robinson speed with which he interrupted Gardiner in line 09, without waiting for a Transitional Relevance Place (TRP), and the steep fall in intonation in line 10 to signal finality, all suggest that the interviewer did not want the interviewee to come back – and he seemed to succeed. (The participants were in different studios and so could not see each other’s body language, which may account for Gardiner’s surprise to some extent).


BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, 26th February, 2018

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