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Defending The Indefensible Topics For Essays

John Henry Browne, 67, has been practising law for 43 years. Based in Seattle, Washington, he has defended high-profile mass murderers, including serial killer Ted Bundy, who sowed fear across the US in the 1970s, and Robert Bales, an army sergeant who massacred 16 Afghan civilians in 2011

I've always felt drawn to the underdog. Often government gets things wrong. I've represented a number of innocent people. It's kind of my path. What I'm supposed to do.

Performing is part of the job. It came to me naturally. I did theatre in high school. People say I'm a Shakespearean character, flamboyant. I figured out what that means – it means a lawyer who actually has a personality. You can get a big head easily in this business. I struggle with my ego.

I was raised against the death penalty, but after a woman friend was murdered brutally in 1969, I thought, let me find that guy who killed Debbie and I'll take care of him. It sounds woo-woo, but then she came to me in a dream. She never believed in the death penalty, so I went back to fighting it partly as a tribute to her.

I usually have some emotional engagement with clients, but Ted Bundy was a perfect example of someone born evil. I had no compassion for him. But I did want to save him from the death penalty. He was at times smart and handsome. To sit down and talk to him, you would think he was normal. He acted very well. Totally manipulative.

Ted told me one time that in junior high school he would put white mice into this little corral. He would sit there and figure out which ones he would save and which ones he would kill. It was the same with women. Control was his thing. But Ted did tell me something that showed he was 2% not sociopath. He said, "John, I want to be a good person, I'm just not."

He said the reason I was his lawyer for so long – he was always firing lawyers – was because we were so alike. He would mimic me, wear the same clothes. That creeped me out. But he turned down the plea bargain I got to save his life.

At the same time I was defending Ted, I was defending abused women. That didn't confuse me, but apparently it confused a lot of other people.

Bobby Bales was born good. He was student body president, captain of the football team, took care of a gravely disabled boy. Bobby was a victim of our wars. He'd done four tours, had PTSD, then ended up working for macho special forces that gave him drugs and alcohol. Bobby did something evil, but he wasn't evil, and we – our government and army – needed to take responsibility for him. But they didn't. So I did.

And then I go to Afghanistan and see these little kids – victims and witnesses [of the massacre] – that I want to adopt. I gave one my card. She was on crutches, just adorable, and said: "If you want to go to college in the United States, get in touch and I'll make it happen."

The work is hard to shake off. You start looking at the world through dirty windows. I've been married a number of times and that partly has to do with my job. Living with me is very difficult. I do a lot of yoga and meditation. I'm really good at convincing myself I've compartmentalised all this stuff.

What probably sets me apart from other lawyers – and it sounds silly and new-agey – is believing we're all connected. It saved me from having disdain for what I was doing. I'm always insecure, because I think I haven't done everything, that someone knows more than I know. So I overdo things – I drive my staff and my family crazy.

I still can't look at autopsy pictures without getting sick. There's only so much of the evil you can view without becoming burned out. You absorb it, and that's not good.

My father once said: "To keep our society free and democratic, someone has to do your job, and do it well." Then he paused and said: "I'm just really sorry it's you." I feel the  same way.

• John Henry Browne's memoir, Sympathy For The Devil, is due out this year.

Irving Kanarek, 94, practised law in California from 1957-1989. He represented Charles Manson, who was convicted in 1971 of conspiracy to murder actor Sharon Tate and six other people. He also defended Jimmy Lee Smith, convicted of abducting and murdering an LA police officer in 1963, a case immortalised in the book The Onion Field.

I would defend a client who I knew was guilty of horrific crimes. They have to be proved guilty. I've had cases where people were guilty as hell but they couldn't prove it. And if they can't prove it, he's not guilty. In that case, the person walks free. That's American justice.

I got a reversal of Jimmy Lee's death sentence, and he had been accused of killing a police officer. That made me the victim of police non-objectivity. They pulled me over, gave me tickets undeservedly.

It wasn't a difficult decision to take the Manson case. My purpose was to fight legally admissible evidence, and the amount of that was scant. His guilt was based on a few hearsay words, inadmissible in court, that he supposedly told this guy to do a number on the Tate residence. No question he was legally innocent. And, more than that, he was actually innocent. There was no evidence connecting him to those murders.

The newspapers, the magazines, the motion pictures got people all excited – Manson as the embodiment of human evil. Charlie wasn't a monster. When you look at the legally admissible evidence, you come to a very different conclusion. Just looking at him from objective considerations, he's a personable person.

I've thought a lot about the case in terms of the legalities. I haven't dwelt much on the human tragedy of it. There's a lot of myth, for example that the baby was taken out of Tate's body. Not so. The wounds were not in the abdomen. The wounds were primarily in the breast area.

I didn't spend much time [thinking about Tate and the other victims], because they were victims of disputes that Charlie had nothing to do with. I think his direct involvement has been woefully extrapolated.

By the time I visited the house, the bodies were gone. The scene was what I'd call mechanical. Nothing about it was gruesome, per se. They'd marked where they were in chalk. So it isn't as overwhelming as some people may feel. None of it stayed with me. The tools of the courtroom make such scenes less than human. I didn't think about it emotionally. The victims are part of the case, but are not that tangible. I lost sleep on other cases, but not on this one.

People ask me, have I ever felt in the presence of evil, I don't know how to respond to that. I don't dream or even think much about Charlie.

I have regrets about every case where someone is killed or injured. Murder is unappetising. But I've never defended anyone who's been accused of horrible criminal acts on children.

Laurence Lee, 61, runs his own firm in Liverpool and specialises in criminal law. In 1993, he represented 10-year-old Jon Venables, who was charged with abducting two-year-old James Bulger from a shopping centre in Bootle, and murdering him. Venables and his co-defendant, Robert Thompson, were found guilty, becoming Britain's youngest convicted murderers.

I describe it as the phone call of fate. The phone was ringing outside the solicitors' room at Liverpool magistrates court. It was always ringing, and no one ever answered it. On this day, I picked it up and the voice said: "You haven't seen Laurence Lee, have you?" I nearly dropped the phone in shock. The chance of it being me they were looking for was remote.

I'd been involved in a lot of drugs cases. Not many murders, just high-profile, stressful cases. You couldn't prepare for this.

I went to Lower Lane and met the boy. He looked more like an eight-year-old than a 10-year-old, and he was so convincing in the first interview that I believed he'd not been anywhere near the Strand shopping centre. He said he'd been on County Road near Everton's football ground with Robert Thompson.

After the break, the second interview started and the officers said: "We've spoken to Robert and he said you were in the Strand."

"We weren't in the Strand, we were on County Road, I told you," he said. Silence. "Well, we were in the Strand, but we never grabbed a kid, Mum."

That was the moment I knew. He wailed and screamed and got out of his chair and he hugged his mum and the police officer. I knew we were in for a rough ride then. It upsets me even now.

That evening, I watched Crimewatch and saw this young lad who looked like Jon Venables wearing a mustard-coloured coat. I couldn't sleep. Before I left for work that morning, I looked out the window and thought that sitting on the wall across the road was an effigy of a baby. I put my glasses on, and it was something innocent. I couldn't wait to get back to the police station. I burst into the room and asked Venables: "What's the colour of your coat?" And he said: "Mustard."

Gradually, he revealed more about the Strand. He said they had just been messing about, and never hinted that any offence had been committed. I disappeared at lunch to give him a break, and when I got back at 2pm I was told that he had admitted killing James. "We did kill James. Please tell his mum I'm sorry."

He just came out with it to his mum. She had said: "Jon, I will always love you, but you've got to tell the truth." That's how responsible she was. He always maintained Robert Thompson was more to blame than he was. We argued that Thompson was the prime mover, and that it should be manslaughter rather than murder. But the prosecution wouldn't accept a manslaughter plea, so we pleaded not guilty.

The mood in the city was extremely angry, bordering on vengeful. After the boys' first appearance in court, I went to the window and I could see a baying mob hurling bricks at the police van that supposedly contained the boys.

I did think to myself, how the hell can children be so cruel? I never asked him how he could do it. I'd never do that to a client.

Albert Kirby, the detective in charge of the case, thinks they intended to kill him from the outset; that they were inherently evil. I disagree. They took James on a very long walk, and had many opportunities to kill him. They spent ages in a tropical fish shop, tapping on the tanks, asking if the fish were real. My theory is they intended to get him lost then didn't know what to do with him.

I was worried sick about the case and the repercussions for taking it on. In fact, the only call we got was from a woman who had a defective greenhouse claim. She said: "Mr Lee's handling my greenhouse. I'm not having him dealing with my greenhouse if he's dealing with this case." A few days later at a petrol station, a juggernaut driver, about 7ft tall, said: "Eh, mate, are you involved in that Bulger case?" I said yes. He said: "Well, I saw you on telly last night and I thought you were fucking great. Keep up the good work." I was buzzing after that. I thought, if I can get that faith from the Liverpool public, I've got no problems.

Taking on the case was a mix of principle and pragmatism. A criminal lawyer who refuses a murder case, no matter how gruesome, shouldn't be practising law. Simple as that. And if you've got ambition, of course you'll take it on. I had nightmares – a recurring dream about falling out of a ghost train at a fairground, and being run over. The case ended in November and I didn't get rid of my nightmares until I went on holiday in January. I also had terrible flashbacks. The day before the first appearance in court, I had to watch a video of the recovery of the body. I lifted up my glasses, so I couldn't see. That same day, I had to go to the police station to read the postmortem. What got me most was that a leaf was stuck to his foot. That made me cry. Awful.

Mr Justice Morland imposed a tariff of eight years, and there was uproar from the Bulger family. The Conservative home secretary, Michael Howard, increased it to 15 years. When the boys decided to challenge the ruling at the European Court of Human Rights, I stopped representing Venables. Until then, I used to visit him at his remand home. It was by then a year on from the trial, and the QC Brian Walsh said every time Venables saw me, he looked backwards, and that it was time to start rebuilding his life. We felt the best way of doing that was with new legal advisers.

James's mother, Denise, initially said they should never have been released. She then softened and said they should be released some day, but that eight years was too short. I have mixed feelings. If I was neutral, I think I'd say it wasn't long enough. But it was always a minimum of eight years, or as long as it took to convince the parole board they were fit to resume their place in society.

Venables obviously took the parole board in, because he reoffended [in 2010, he was jailed for downloading and distributing indecent images of children]. I was flabbergasted. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised. I have always thought they may be at liberty but they'll never be free. They've been looking over their shoulders ever since the judge released their identity, which I was furious about. Until then, they had been Boy A and Boy B. Having new identities, they had to reinvent their youth. That's enough to drive you to drink and drugs, and Venables did hit the bottle.

If I saw him now, I think I'd ask why he reoffended. I don't want to know about 1993, I'd say. You were given a chance to rebuild your life – what went wrong?

It's not a stigma being known as the Bulger lawyer, but it has had a profound impact on me. For a long time after the case, I never went to work. I had what I call post-Bulger syndrome. It's been vital for me to talk about it; it's a release. I'm not saying I would have ended up in a mental institution, but it's good to get it out.

William Kelley, 65, retired two years ago after practising law in Orange County, California, for 33 years. He defended Charles Ng, who was convicted of murdering 11 people. Ng and his accomplice, Leonard Lake, abducted and tortured their victims at a remote cabin in the Sierra Nevada foothills in the mid-80s.

I was really good at only one thing, and that's trying cases. If you like being in a courtroom, and I did, it's a real jolt, a rush. Especially if you have an interesting case.

I don't get emotionally involved with my clients. I made that mistake once and it wiped me out. I guess I'm pretty mercenary. Just bring 'em on and I'll defend them. It makes you a better lawyer.

The Charles Ng case was top of the mountain for me. I was flattered they even asked. My one hesitation was not that he was a monster, it was the amount of work. And I was right. Six years.

Was I horrified by my client? In the murder arena, you just don't have that sort of mindset. You're thinking, I'm going to do the darndest I can to defend this person as well as I possibly can. You want to prevail. You're battling the other side. Whether or not he gets off is up to the jury.

It was necessary to try to understand Charles Ng to defend him. Our relationship was not real cordial, because he was constantly criticising. I told him, I'm the experienced lawyer, we're going to do it my way.

The video tapes were tough. In one, Kathleen Allen is in chains. They're talking to her, telling her she'll do their bidding, that they're going to keep her captured. She's terrified. It's hard to see that stuff. The first time I saw that I was like, wow. But I was also thinking, man, that's a bad piece of evidence. Brenda O'Connor is on another tape. She wants to know where her baby is. She's resisting, arguing and aggravated. They say: "We've given your baby away, he's fine." That wasn't true. The baby was never found. They lay a gun on the table. They're basically saying, you're ours now. Stunned silence when you see that. I don't remember if I could sleep that night, but my guess is probably not. I watched it dozens of times after that. The impact does lessen, because you're looking for anything in there.

The courtroom was packed, standing room only, every day. Some of the victims' relatives hated me. You can't try murder cases successfully if you get emotionally involved with the victims. You have to be very, very objective. And kind of cold. You can sympathise at some level, think about it on the first day when they're in the gallery crying. But once that gavel comes down and the game starts, that's it, they're just not part of what you're doing.

You have to be able to project when you need an emotional reaction from the jury, know how to push that button. The courtroom is a theatre of persuasion. You do what you need to do – within the bounds of ethics.

When the case was over, I was exhausted. I took off by myself and went to Ireland. Guinness therapy. Guinness and golf.

I'm really glad I did the Charles Ng case, but I'd never do it again. It just takes too much out of you. I had a relationship that ended, and this case had a lot to do with it. It never leaves you.

I have some of Charles's origami pieces on the mantelpiece. I supposed it's odd. He was artistic, a very creative guy. I like art. Having them here reminds me of the whole experience.

• This article was edited on 27 June 2014. In the original, we said that during his 33 years' practising law, William Kelley had worked for 22 of them as a prosecutor, when he was in fact a defence lawyer. This has been corrected.

Fighting Talk is a topical sports show broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live during the English football season.

Its first series was broadcast in October 2003, presented by Johnny Vaughan. The second series was presented by Christian O'Connell. The current and longest-serving presenter has been Colin Murray, who took charge between 2006 and 2013 and returned to the show for the 2016/17 season after his departure from talkSPORT. The show is broadcast on Saturday mornings for an hour between 1100 and 1200.

The show has twice won Gold Sony Radio Academy Awards in the sports programme category; in 2006 and 2011. For the latter, judges described the show as "like a modern version of old-fashioned Music Hall".[2]


The host chairs the show where four guest pundits are invited to expound in turn, preferably with wit and knowledge, their views and opinions on a series of topical sporting events. Most sports are thrown into the fray but there is a strong emphasis on English top-flight football and other sports covered by the British news media.

The penultimate discussion topic on the show is known as 'Any Other Business' (AOB) where the guests are given the opportunity to talk about anything they wish, and encouraged to comment on topics or issues that have irked, annoyed or incensed them in past week, regardless of relevance to sport.

Listener participation[edit]

The programme is interspersed with "listeners' homework" – listeners are asked to submit answers to one of the questions posed to the panel (normally question two) by e-mail or text message. During the course of the show, the presenter reads out the "best" responses, with the most entertaining answers being read out the following week. Homework questions often involve likening sports people to objects, animals or concepts: for example, "If footballers were houses, what would they be?"

Prizes were introduced to encourage respondents; in the first series, the prize for the best entry was a "soundbite" recording of a commentator or sportsman — being a brief piece of sporting commentary involving the winning respondent or recollections of the respondent's sporting prowess (both fictional). Contributors included Chris Waddle, Barry Fry and Jonathan Pearce. In keeping with the Park incident (see below), the results of this competition have been rigged on occasion — for example, Giles Boden (writer — see below) is a previous "winner"; his prize was a soundbite recorded for him by the former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri.

During the second series, a tangible prize was introduced in the form of a Fighting Talk mug – and as an added incentive, listeners were offered the chance to appear as guest pundits. Jim Thane was the first listener to be invited to compete live on the show, appearing in series two with Steve Bunce, Greg Brady and Dominic Holland. Richard Seymour was the second guest listener, appearing in the third series with Steve Bunce, Bob Mills and Kriss Akabusi. During the fourth series, Christopher Briggs joined a panel consisting of Will Buckley, John Rawling and Bob Mills.

Prizes were suspended during series 5 due to the BBC's blanket ban on hosting phone-in competitions, which came as a result of various phone-in and interactive voting scandals.[3] Listeners were still encouraged to text and e-mail in answers by the presenter, immediately followed by a sarcastic remark from Colin Murray about Blue Peter, one of the BBC's programmes accused of misleading viewers. When considered in the context of the arbitrary nature of the show's scoring systems, the suspension seems somewhat ironic, particularly given that presenter corruption is tolerated to the point of being encouraged.

As of 19 September 2009 the listeners have been asked to submit a question, rather than answer the set question. The listener who is selected to pose the question is also given the power to award two bonus points to any panellist of his or her choice.

Defend the Indefensible[edit]

In order to decide the week’s ultimate winner the two highest scoring pundits are invited to "Defend the Indefensible". Each pundit is called to vigorously support a topical theme for twenty seconds that is either distasteful, politically incorrect, plainly wrong, self-derisory or entirely contrary to the pundit's known opinions. Previous examples of defending the indefensible include "I’d gladly drink a pint of Maradona’s liposuction fat for Comic Relief"; "cricket has been cheapened now common people and ladies have jumped on the bandwagon" and "I believe the annual Oxford-Cambridge boat race should take place in Iranian territorial waters".

"No matter what I say, you have to defend it for 20 seconds. For the people here in the [Liverpool Echo] Arena, a little bit like when we did the booing and we didn't mean what we were saying? This is like that round. We don't mean what we're saying, the whole point is that you have to defend the indefensible. I'm going to get it tattooed across my forehead because every week someone complains… This is awful, you have to defend it."

Colin Murray, Fighting Talk's Big Day Out, Saturday 1st June 2013

For all the responses are often outrageously comedic, due to some being extremely near the knuckle, hosts have still had to reiterate on many occasions that the statements are not meant to be taken seriously in any way. Indeed, more often than not they actually have the intention of mocking those who would hold such an abhorrent view; even so, despite repeated clarification, complaints are still a fairly regular occurrence.

The shortest ever DTI was recorded on 26 January 2008, when Jim Jefferies lasted just five seconds after being asked to defend the statement "Just like Ashley Cole, vomiting is a vital part of my lovemaking". Jefferies responded, "Fair enough, because sometimes you need lube". Presenter Colin Murray immediately implied it would be Jeffries' last regular appearance on the show. However, this was not the case, with Jeffries appearing on FT on 18 October 2008, in a typically controversial performance, and made one last appearance on a pre-recorded comics special that aired on Boxing Day 2009.

On occasion, the DTI round has been specifically designed for the pundit who has to answer. Examples include propositions posed to former England football manager Graham Taylor and Henning Wehn. After the resignation of Sven-Göran Eriksson from the position of England Manager, Taylor was invited to defend the statement "The next England manager should be Graham Taylor". In a later series, Wehn was asked to defend "The German football team should wear PVC Nazi outfits as a show of support to Max Mosley", in reference to the latter's court battle following revelations about Mosley's personal life.

Finalists who refuse to take part in the round forfeit the round and by extension, the game — for example, John Rawling refused to criticise his wife's cooking on the Christmas 2006 show, with the win being awarded to fellow panellist Des Kelly. Rawling was again asked to defend the proposition exactly a year later, and did so successfully. Two episodes of Fighting Talk were won by pundits who did not have to participate in the DTI round:

  • On 17 September 2005, Bob Mills won a show after fellow finalist Steve Bunce refused to defend "John Rawling's debut as ITV boxing commentator was mediocre at best"; Bunce was replaced in the final by John Rawling, who was subsequently unable to respond to the proposition "Boxing's so gay, but that's why I like it".
  • In November 2006, Trevor Nelson was awarded a win after finalists Ian Stone and Clare Balding's efforts were deemed too terrible to win.
  • Martin Kelner became the first (and to date, only) person to be ejected from the DTI final on 25 April 2009 because Colin Murray claimed he was "being a wuss" in offering his place in the final to John Oliver.


Guests earn arbitrary points for 'good punditry', but lose them if they waffle, use predictable clichés, or attempt to ingratiate themselves with the host. Scoring is accompanied by a variety of appropriate and humorous sound effects.

Cash Register KerchingOne Point (this sound is actually cribbed from the video game Sonic the Hedgehog, and can be heard at the end of a level)
Arrow hitting the targetTwo Points
Hallelujah chorusThree Points
Be-uuwwwminus One point

In the 24 January 2009 show, a new sound effect (being the start up music from Microsoft Windows XP) was introduced, to indicate a 'fact' that had been blatantly pulled by the contestant from Wikipedia or other online source.

Disordered and by no means fair, the system is sufficiently flexible to accommodate the presenter’s moods, likes and dislikes and personal bias. Pundits can start the game on positive scores, with points having been awarded for complimentary comments about the presenter; by contrast, many start on minus scores, with points having been deducted due to interruptions or negative comments about the presenter.

At the beginning of series four, Colin Murray introduced the "Golden Envelope" round. The presenter places his or her own answer to a particular question into an envelope prior to the show and poses the question to the pundits during the second half of that show: matching the answer in the envelope is worth ten bonus points.

Presenters can also 'fix' the outcome of show results for personal gain. Colin Murray arranged for Richard Park to win a show in 2007 because Park was a judge in the TV show Comic Relief does Fame Academy, in which Murray was a contestant. At one point, Park was in last place, but Murray put him into the final and gave him the win, without listening to the Defend the Indefensible round answer from fellow contestant Jim White.

Murray also decided an FA Cup Third Round show on 3 January 2009 in favour of former WimbledonFA Cup Final goalscorer and Northern Ireland national football team manager Lawrie Sanchez, after both Sanchez and fellow finalist Martin Kelner failed to meet the 20 seconds required in Defend the Indefensible. On 9 November 2013, Bob Mills finished the show on zero points after a ridicule of Southampton's season left host Christian O'Connell aghast, and thus took all his points.


The first series began in October 2003 and was hosted by Johnny Vaughan.[1] The inaugural show featured a panel consisting of Greg Brady, Will Buckley, Bradley Walsh and the eventual winner, Stan Collymore. After the first series ended in April 2004, Vaughan left to present the Capital FM breakfast show.

Christian O'Connell was the show's second presenter,[4] and completed a successful second series from 2004–2005, culminating in a gold award for the show at the 24th Sony Radio Academy Awards.[5] He left to focus on his new Virgin Radio breakfast show at the end of 2005. His last show was in December 2005, and featured his four favourite guests — John Rawling, Steve Bunce, Greg Brady and Bob Mills. That show also briefly featured the wives of three of those panellists, who were invited to answer (via telephone) a question on behalf of their husbands. Bob Mills' wife was unavailable for comment.

Colin Murray started presenting the show in February 2006.[6] He was the host for 7 years until he left in July 2013 as he moved from the BBC to present on rival network Talksport.

Following Murray's departure, he was replaced by three presenters who would rotate hosting duties. O'Connell returned as one of the presenters, with commentator Jonathan Pearce and TV presenter Matt Johnson the others for the 2013/14 season.[7]

Starting with the 2014/15 season, hosting duties were shared between presenter Georgie Thompson and comedian Josh Widdicombe.[8] They remained for the 2015/16 season.[9]

Murray returned to Fighting Talk from September 17 2016.[10]

Guest presenters[edit]

Vaughan came back for 'one week only' on 10 March 2007 because Murray was appearing in the reality television programme Comic Relief does Fame Academy. However, he has since made two other guest appearances as chairman while Murray has been away. The show has also had a number of other guest presenters to cover for when the host is unavailable, including well-known British broadcasters such as Dickie Davies, Kelly Dalglish, Jimmy Tarbuck, Gabby Logan, Terry Wogan, Phil Williams, and Nick Hancock.

Producer Mike Holt has also had to present the show for one question when Colin Murray could not bring himself to adjudicate a round questioning his favourite team by asking "What's wrong with Liverpool Football Club?" Murray left the studio for the duration of the question.

Simon Crosse has produced every series of Fighting Talk.

The 'Stuart Hall incident'[edit]

Fighting Talk made national news with an episode broadcast on 12 March 2005. The panel consisted of Danny Kelly, Will Buckley, John Rawling and Stuart Hall. The presenter, Christian O'Connell, asked the panel "What other former all-conquering nations, clubs or individuals would you like to see have a renaissance?". Stuart Hall responded "Zimbabwe", and criticised what Robert Mugabe had done to the country, saying "...don your flannels, black up, play leather on willow with Mugabe cast as a witch doctor. Imagine him out at Lords casting a curse; tincture of bat's tongues, gorilla's gonads, tiger's testicles...". Shortly afterwards, O'Connell was heard to ask studio staff "Are we still on air?" During the same show, Hall was also asked for his opinion on sporting stars acting as role models for young people. In his response, he defended swearing by footballers suggesting that "your average 10-year-old can instruct you in oral or anal sex".[11][12] The incidents were widely reported in the national press, although neither attracted significant criticism from listeners.[11]


Pundits are generally British sports journalists, sportspeople or stand-up comics. However, some non-UK pundits have made appearances, notably Greg Brady (who participates regularly by ISDN from Toronto, Canada). On 27 October 2007, Greg made an appearance in the studio due to being in London for the first NFL regular season game to be played outside the USA. He has made appearances in the UK every year since then, including the 24 October 2009 broadcast which came live from Hull.

Other non-UK contestants include Australian comedians Charlie Pickering and Jim Jeffries, Irish comedian Neil Delamere, English-born New Zealand comedian Al Pitcher and German comedian Henning Wehn. American comic Doug Stanhope made an appearance on the 13 September 2008 episode, as he was touring Britain at the time. Adam Richman, host of Man vs. Food, appeared on 17 November 2012, but did so on ISDN rather than in studio.

Music and sound effects[edit]

The show's distinctive theme tune comes from the track "Sabotage" by Beastie Boys, which first appeared on their 1994 album Ill Communication. The segment used is from the middle of the track. The song was replaced with a different version due to contractual reasons in 2010, but made a one-off appearance on the 5 May 2012 episode as a tribute to MCA (aka Adam Yauch), who had died the day before aged 47 and to whom that episode was dedicated.

The music usually playing while the host gives the scores is the theme from the British TV show The Professionals, and during the final segment Defending the Indefensible, the theme from the Rocky series, "Gonna Fly Now", is used.

Other sound effects used throughout each show include the various pundit themes; the theme from Allo Allo; Planet Funk's "Chase the Sun"; the German, Italian and American national anthems; the Indiana Jones theme; "The Lonely Man" from The Incredible Hulk, and the Grange Hill theme tune among others.

Fighting Talk in other media[edit]

The show made a brief appearance on television (2004, BBC2, in an early evening slot) presented and written by Johnny Vaughan and was true to the popular radio format. The scoring sound effects were juxtaposed with complementary images shown on large screens. At one stage negotiations were believed to be under way for Colin Murray to host a live style format in the Camden-based MTV studios which would air on Sky One during the close season.

The programme has also made outside broadcasts through the years, a number of which coincided with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony that December.

Fighting Talk: Any Other Business[edit]

A one-off, politics-based show — using the name of Fighting Talk's 'Any Other Business' round — was broadcast on Sunday 17 December 2006 at 7pm, presented by Richard Bacon. A run of four further shows billed as Fighting Talk: Any Other Business were broadcast between 15 July and 5 August 2007. The host was the original Fighting Talk presenter Johnny Vaughan and guests included Alan Duncan, Diane Abbot, Stephen Pound, Arabella Weir and Robin Ince.[13]

Internet resources[edit]

The most popular and well known fan-site is located on the social networking website Facebook, under the name 'The Fighting Talk Appreciation Society'. It is occasionally mentioned on the show by the presenter.

In 2009 the show introduced a "secret" group on the social networking website Facebook, called 'FT316' for listeners to post their suggestions for question 2. Originally they did not give the name of the group on air, but a link was sent to anyone who requested it by email. This idea was scrapped after a couple of shows and now the presenter just tells listeners to go to the page, giving them the name of it on air. The 316 comes from the number of one of the sound effects in the BBC library, later found to be one number out from what it should be.


Fighting Talk became available as an mp3 download in October 2004, with a podcast version following as part of a BBC trial in February 2005. Each show can be accessed for download on the BBC website in either format for one week after broadcast. Much comment is made by the presenters about the performance of the podcast in the iTunes chart (in either the Sport or Comedy categories, or the overall podcast chart) – with a previous best of number 5 in the overall chart (series three).

Following the Russell Brand Show prank telephone calls row, the BBC introduced a system of editing 'controversial' content of some shows before making them available as podcasts. The three most noticeable edits to date have been made to DTI rounds — the first involved the show recorded at Goodison Park (see above), where Pat Nevin was asked to defend the statement I'd gladly swap every game I played for Everton and Tranmere for just one night with Wayne Rooney's granny. Nevin's original answer in the live broadcast included the statement "sloppy seconds from Wayne Rooney just sounds like pure class to me" but the line was cut for the podcast. The second involved the show broadcast on 16 May 2009, when Bob Mills was asked to defend a statement involving ex-cricketer Chris Lewis's appearance in court in relation to cocaine smuggling. Both the DTI statement and Mills's response were removed from the podcast. Mills was also edited out of the podcast of the 1 June 2013 broadcast, after he was asked to defend the statement "Give me 20 minutes with her and I’m pretty sure I could turn around Clare Balding." The statement, as well as Mills's response, was removed from the podcast before its official release, although fans made available an unabridged version recorded from DAB radio, via a number of sources, in a protest against the British newspaper the Daily Mail. The number of downloads of the uncut version reached four figures.

Several podcasts in series 6 contain bonus audio clips that can be heard after several minutes of silence at the end of the broadcast recording. The sections generally consist of studio chatter between the host and panellists, often recorded during off-air audio level tests. The most notable can be found on the podcast recording of the show broadcast on 28 March 2009, when panellist Perry Groves can be heard singing along to "Love Really Hurts Without You" by Billy Ocean.


The first Fighting Talk tie-in book, Fighting Talk: Flimsy Facts, Sweeping Statements and Inspired Sporting Hunches, edited by regular pundit Will Buckley, was published by Hodder & Stoughton on 2 October 2008.


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