Friday 2 October 2015

Any Question Time

While I've been away (in Morecambe)...

Rod Liddle in The Spectator and his "old mucker" at the BBC, media consultant Chris Birkett, writing in The Telegraph, have both been reflecting on that perennial BBC-bias-related old chestnut: the apparent left-wing character of most BBC studio audiences on Question Time and Any Questions - and what that says about BBC bias.

Labour-supporting Rod doesn't blame the BBC in this case. He puts it down to middle-class 'liberals' (i.e. left-wingers) not being able to shut up and, thus, dominating proceedings. 

Chris, similarly, doesn't blame the BBC. He puts it down to shy Tories (and other right-wingers) not wanting to speak in public (being shy). 

Rod pretends they are disagreeing but they are actually saying pretty much the same thing.

As I've noted before (more than once), several of Question Time's favourite right-wingers - everyone from Nigel Farage and James Delingpole to Janet Daley and Toby Young - have defended the makers of Question Time on much the same grounds.

None of them think that Question Time is intentionally biased (quite the reverse in fact). They all agree, in slightly different ways, that the BBC is innocent here (in intent)...

...but still, they also agree that there's a big problem nonetheless.

There certainly is, but what can be done about it?

Strangely, last night's unusually enjoyable edition of Question Time might point the way forward.

Yes, the panel had a 3:2 bias towards the Left...

...(Labour's Stephen Kinnock, Plaid's Leanne Wood and the usual QT celeb Charlotte Church v Charles Moore of the Spectator and Welsh Conservative Stephen Crabb...and Wales's third party, UKIP, was absent)...

...but David Dimbleby gave all three party politicians a firm (feline) duffing-up (particularly Stephen Kinnock), and the audience, for once, seemed genuinely balanced and unpredictable.

Amusingly and, perhaps, tellingly - as the Spectator's Steerpike noted - Charlotte seemed seriously taken aback and disappointed that the Question Time audience wasn't wholly on her side and whooping her every word. Some of her (and Jeremy Corbyn's) fans cried 'BBC bias!' on Twitter as a result.

How did this happen? 

Is it something peculiar to Wales (run by Labour - occasionally with Plaid's help - under devolution for what might seem nigh on eternity)? Or did the BBC go out of its way to demonstrate an unbiased audience, given all the recent controversy? 

Whatever, last night's edition was a delightful one-off in being unambiguously balanced. Audience applause and stony silence went in all directions, depending on what was being said. 

Plus I warmed to all the panellists (even the ones I didn't agree with). 

Did you notice though David Dimbleby's disbelieving questioning of Leanne Wood when she said that the Labour First Minister of Wales had called for Trident to be relocated to the fascinating port of Milford Haven (in south-west Wales) if the SNP turfed Britain's nuclear fleet out of Scotland? 

He pounced, cautiously, assuming she'd got it wrong. He just didn't seem able to take her word on trust. Didn't she mean a Conservative minister? 

No, she said, it was a Labour man (as indeed it was - namely Carwyn Jones, Wales's Labour first minister - as she'd already said!). 

David D moved on without comment or apology. He's obviously not as up on Welsh politics as might be expected for a top BBC presenter. (Even I knew that Mr Jones had made that striking proposal.)

Still, if Question Time (and Any Questions) could be like this all the time, then no one (other than rabid partisans) could object to it.


  1. I've noticed that the Beebs output seems to have turned in the last few weeks, maybe the tanker is finally changing course ever so slightly following the recent polls about refugees etc.

  2. But who was it who taught right-wingers to be so shy & ashamed of their views? Only every BBC news programme and leftie comedian for decades now

  3. My own suspicion is that a staffer in the QT office is leaking venue information and dates well in advance to activist groups, who then 'book early and often'...

    1. If not a staffer, perhaps a 'relative' brought in to 'assist' on ''research', whose loyalties to outside interests trump those of broadcast integrity.

      Who, if exposed, would shock BBC executives to their very cores. Shocked, I tell you!


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