Saturday 10 October 2015

Reforming Question Time

When you watch a programme ‘again’ important things you missed first time sometimes leap out at you. But most people do not watch programmes again, so the first impression is probably the one you should focus on when trying to do a review.

However, as I dutifully watched Question Time on Thursday night (past my normal bedtime) I brought my expectations along - my ‘baggage’, some may say.

After all the fuss about biased audiences - reignited, you’ll remember, by Allison Pearson after a bruising experience on “Any Questions” I was looking out for signs of reform. Loins girded, antennae twitching, I came to the conclusion that the QT management has fiddled with the audience.

How could it be that this QT, from a venue in one of the most diverse regions in the UK, wasn’t stuffed with - how can I put it without being racist - okay, I give up. Headscarves.

How come Melanie Phillips got applause? That’s not normal for Question Time. Have the BBC been manipulating the audience in one of the most belated cases of stable doors and bolted horses in BBC history?

The Conservative MP, Priti Patel had the unenviable task of defending the policy of cutting working tax credit, and though she had a brave try, she didn’t quite manage to pull it off. But she did at least garner one appreciative member of the audience, who spoke up well and was not interrupted or jeered at. 
 Once the masses have made up their minds, no amount of logic will ever budge them. Priti could plead that it’s all part of a package designed to rationalise the welfare system till she’s blue in the face, but no-one would care. She’d have been far better off just saying ‘suck it up”, which, in some ways, is an argument for Corbyn’s ‘new politics’.  Just be honest.

"I shall go demented"

Tim Farron was painful to watch. He looked - to steal a phrase from Mrs Tittlemeouse - as though he’d ‘gone demented’. He was begging for more immigration. Where is his constituency? Fairyland? No. The Lake District.


The audience must have been from there too. People say that Dimbles gave Ms Nandy an easy ride. He felt sorry for her, obvs. The first time round, if you watched it just the once, you might not have noticed her gurning and scowling while others, particularly Melanie, were speaking.

Elevated chair

Dimbles is always perched higher than everyone else. The chairman’s chair must be on a dais. The cameras should sneak round the back sometime, for fun. It would be more fun than watching the programme.

“Is Theresa May right? Does immigration at its present level make a cohesive society impossible?” That, by the way, was the first question.

It turns out that the questioner thought that Theresa May was wrong. It also turns out that not only does the questioner, the audience, most of the panel and much of the blogosphere think so too, but the audience and the panel of ‘Any Questions’ think likewise.  That includes David Aaronovitch and Charles Moore.  They all thought that Theresa May was: a)negative, b) touting for leadership and c)wrong

I did think her dress was too short. Just below the knee would be better, I’d venture. Everyone seems to be against Theresa May, and  everyone who heard her speech, bar a few bloggers, seems to have heard a different speech. I mean the speech they heard differs from the speech I heard.  I watched it on Sky. Maybe they played around with it or something, but I didn’t hear Theresa May saying she was against immigration. I heard her saying she was against mass immigration at recent unsustainable levels.  Perhaps the BBC, or the platforms others were viewing it on edited out ‘mass’ and ‘recent’ and ‘unsustainable’? 

They all said it was a negative speech, but what did they expect? It’s a bit of a negative situation, after all.

The bottom line is that it was only a speech, which doesn’t mean anything much will change. Theresa May was effectively criticising herself, as many people have pointed out.  

Lots of right-wingers or centre-right pundits seem to have taken against the government’s stance on immigration too. I don’t know about Hugo Rifkind. He was on the News Quiz, along with a bunch of lefties, slagging off the tories with the best of them. 
The News Quiz isn’t a quiz. It used to be a genuine test of the panel’s (journalists) knowledge of the news. In the past they would feature some obscure and perhaps quirky news items to test the participant’s observational acuity. Now it’s just an opportunity for lefties to slag off anything non-leftist in a populist manner, a bit like a radio version of Mock the Week. Obviously the panel has already been informed as to which newsworthy topic their ‘witty’ intro will allude.
Not funny, not entertaining, but boring, predictable and annoying for anyone who disagrees with the consensus.

As for QT, I did wonder if the BBC has fiddled with the criteria for passing the ‘suitability for being in the  audience’ exam. Maybe they’ve asked those of a right wing tendency to speak up, and promised that Dimbles will call on them. 
A couple of audience members said there are areas in Leicester where immigrants don’t mix. Met with stony silence, though.

At the very end, when the question was about Jeremy Corbyn’s loyalty to this country or otherwise,  Dimbleby said: “One person who agrees with your (derogatory) view about Jeremy Corbyn”  frantically searching  through the audience for the 18 year old girl who had been verbally attacked by those expectorating demonstrators as she was making her way into the conservative conference. It looked very much as though he had previously arranged to let her speak. Watch it again and see if you agree. 

It was disgusting!

I don’t really know if such reforms have been deliberately set up, and I doubt if the BBC will ever  come clean, as transparency is not their way.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read your whole piece, sue, but I approached Any Questions (R4 9 Oct.) all baggaged up & loaded, too. Sure enough, just to make things worse, Jonathan Dimbleby made the point at the start of the programme that the audience was not specially selected but was open to allcomers on a first come, first served basis. OK, I thought, I wonder how the applause (in recent months approaching bear pit levels for some of the answers) will allocate itself?

    Sure enough, it was greater - slightly at first, more obviously later - for the Panel members who were the most 'left-leaning' shall we say. But interestingly, for the Conservative MP (Grant Shapps), Jonathan kept jumping in as soon as the MP stopped speaking either with a question or to direct another Panel member to answer. The Labour MP, Diane Abbott was not accorded quite the same treatment.

    This became blatantly apparent by the end of the programme, at which point the phrase 'They just can't help themselves' popped into my head.

    For some at the BBC, there obviously has been no clear leadership from the top for some considerable time, with its insistence on completely neutral political programming. BBC presenters & journalists who are Liberal Arts and Liberal (or even Lefter) Politics inclined, probably feel they can have freedom to behave as they do.

    A good DG would be calling them in, first, for a friendly chat on a Monday morning. If the behaviour persisted then for subsequent offences, they would be required to inspect the warp & weft & colours of the carpet in the DG's office at ever closer distances, before having the door closed permanently behind them on the way out.

    The Corporation is giving signs of being out of control.


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