I often comment or complain about BBC Question Time and the concerning feeling that it arises in me where I feel as if I need to throw something at the TV. As we recently bought a new one, the temptation has lessened somewhat even though it cost 1/10 of the 12 year old “media system”
that came with the house when we moved in. How on earth does that even work? Technology prices continue to fall whilst standards raise yet basic essential food and household requirements get ever more expensive but decrease in size. Definitely a conundrum for Lewis Carroll.
It is rare that I watch it at the time of broadcast now and like many others resort to watching it in catch-up at a time convenient to me and with the option available to me to skip the bits that I do not want to see. The downside (or upside as I am forewarned) is that I have generally read on
social media what has happened during the episode. Initially, I’ll be irked by what I read about the rudeness shown by panel members and audience to those who share the same political views as me but in general, when actually watching the programme, it is never as bad as what has been
whipped up in an online frenzy. Try as I might, I couldn’t see the venom that had supposedly been shown to Diane Abbott the other week; a definite whiff of superiority from those seated close to her but as happens all too often, an idea posted online grows arms and legs and runs until it bears no resemblance to the original tale, with each exaggeration being passed as fact. I felt the same this week – I expected to watch a programme full of hostility to Fiona Hyslop and whilst there was of course some, the majority of the cat-calling was reserved for Michael Forsyth as he displayed the same archaic beliefs that almost wiped out the Tories in Scotland and several times tried to exert his seniority over the younger and more progressive thinking Hugo Rifkind.
Never a fan of Dimbleby, I was heartened when he retired and have made no secret of the fact that I believe it should have happened many years earlier. Patronising and arrogant not to mention being a middle aged man in a suit, he epitomised everything that I disagreed with. When I heard that it was Fiona Bruce that would be the new presenter, I honestly thought that things would change, that the show – sorry, programme – would be more amenable, more equitable and simply, a more enjoyable watch. Unfortunately though, I feel that rather than trying to make Question Time her own and claim ownership of it, Bruce is simply regurgitating what we have been told we enjoy watching – boorish condescension with a dismissive disdain for the invited panel.
This week, Twitter went into overdrive with the realisation that somebody was making an unprecedented fourth appearance as an audience member. Most panel guests cannot lay claim to that many visits and even Nicola Sturgeon has only been on the show three times. Not only that, it appears that he has been an audience member in a previous political debate show and will also be appearing in the new Scottish Question Time that will be shown in the near future. From a supposedly rigorous screening process that results in many people not being able to gain a place on the show, it is difficult to understand how this has happened and calls into doubt the
impartiality on which the BBC stands. I suspect that it is the actions of a staff member who is either known to the audience member in question or has realised the amount of publicity that would ensue and has decided that any fallout from the recurrent appearances is worth valuable media presence that money couldn’t buy.
Many people have stated that the audience was unrepresentative of the area and its political preference but I think it probably was fair; the issue is more the questions that are asked which always seem to be unfairly biased against independence supporters. The views of a community change and these claims are being based on election results that might not be repeated if there was another election tomorrow.
I can understand to a certain extent, the lack of understanding of Scottish politics and communities displayed by the host and the panel when the show is being broadcast from
elsewhere in the UK but when shows from Scotland are still presented with the same parochial outlook, then this is where the problem with the format lies. Often shows from English towns speak about local issues but you never hear this in Scotland; the issues tend to be national and of course, a question about independence and the SNP always manages to be asked no matter what the subject in question is. I look forward to the end of February when the new Scottish Question Time airs and sincerely hope that it is representative of the country that it represents; forward thinking, inclusive and fair but with the strength to try something new and to be what others can only aspire to.