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Krishnan Guru-Murthy: The bullish Channel 4 News interviewer letting himself loose on Strictly Come Dancing

It’s Strictly Come Dancing time again... and you know what that means.

A selection of nimble-footed celebrities are tangoing, foxtrotting, and pirouetting their way onto the dancefloor for the 21st series of the hit BBC reality competition.

Among the contenders this year is Krishnan Guru-Murthy, the highly respected Channel 4 news broadcaster.

Born in Liverpool in 1970, Guru-Murthy, now 53, was the child of an Indian radiology consultant.

After growing up near Burnley and attending school in Blackburn, he went to university at Hertford College, Oxford, before getting hired by the BBC in 1988.

Guru-Murthy started out as a presenter on the BBC Two programme Open to Question and Reportage, a youth-oriented current affairs programme.

Between 1991 and 1994 he presented Newsround, and produced for Newsnight, becoming part of the inaugural presenting team for BBC News 24.

In 1998, Guru-Murthy moved to the Beeb’s competitor, Channel 4, becoming a host on Channel 4 News.

Throughout his 25-year-stint on Channel 4, the newsreader earned a reputation for his strong, direct interviewing style, which occasionally caused him to butt heads with interviewees.

Among the subjects to take objection to Guru-Murthy’s questions were Robert Downey Jr, who walked out of an interview after being asked about his past substance abuse, and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, who told the presenter: “I refuse your question. I'm not your slave and you're not my master. You can't make me dance to your tune. I'm not a monkey.”

Speaking about his savage reputation in a 2015 interview with Vice, Guru-Murthy remarked: “I am basically the person I’ve always been. I don’t play a character on television; I am my myself.

“My desire to get straight to it, and ask straight questions, and confront and challenge people when I think they need it, I’m sure you could trace that personality trait right back to when I was at school in Blackburn.”

He has previously appeared on a celebrity version of the cookery series The Great British Bake Off, and has made cameos in films including Shaun of the Dead.

In October 2022, Guru-Murthy was taken off air by Channel 4 for a week after being caught swearing about the Northern Ireland Tory MP Steve Baker.

Immediately after a combative interview with Baker, the presenter was caught on microphone saying: “What a c***.”

Krishnan Guru-Murthy outside Wogan House in London, after he was announced by Claudia Winkleman as the fourth confirmed celebrity(Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)
Krishnan Guru-Murthy outside Wogan House in London, after he was announced by Claudia Winkleman as the fourth confirmed celebrity(Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

He issued an apology on Twitter soon afterwards, writing: “After a robust interview with Steve Baker MP I used a very offensive word in an unguarded moment off air. While it was not broadcast that word in any context is beneath the standards I set myself and I apologise unreservedly. I have reached out to Steve Baker to say sorry.”

Channel 4 suspended him for a week and confirmed that the outburst had violated its code of conduct.

Offscreen, Guru-Murthy suffers from Crohn’s disease and also has a genetic heart defect. He’s married with two children, and his sister, Geeta Guru-Murthy, also works in TV, for BBC News.

Ahead of his arrival on Strictly, Guru-Murthy sought to reassure viewers that his participation would not affect his normal interviewing responsibilities.

 (Channel 4)
(Channel 4)

Asked by The Observer whether he was concerned about audiences taking him less seriously, Guru-Murthy responded: “I’ve no idea how I’ll do, but I think the audience knows me well. They’ve grown up with me and know what I’m about. As for guests? Having something soft to break the adversarial ice might be helpful.

“I’ll carry on doing what I do. It would be very funny, I think, if anyone dared take me less seriously going into an interview because I’m doing Strictly. Good luck with that. See how you get on, is what I’d say to them.”

You can read about the rest of Strictly’s 2023 line-up here.

Strictly airs on Saturdays and Sundays on BBC One.