Friday 28 May 2010

Has the BBC's Question Time Had Its Day?

Last night's Question Time came from Gravesend in Kent. The panel consisted of John Redwood MP, Susan Kramer, former Libdem MP who lost to Zac Goldsmith in the Richmond Park seat, Alastair Campbell, Piers Morgan and Sir Max Hastings. One elected politician in a panel of five.

David Dimbleby, the show's host, explained that No 10 had made it clear that a Cabinet minister was 'available' to appear but only if Mr Campbell was replaced by a member of the shadow cabinet.

Number 10 asked for him to be replaced by a shadow minister but the BBC refused on a point of 'fundamental principle'.

Gavin Allen, the show's executive editor, said it was the first time in his three years in the job that No 10 had made such a demand. "It is a fundamental principle of our independence that politicians cannot dictate who sits on the panel," he said.

"Parties are free to accept or reject those invitations but they do not have a right of veto over other panelists. Licence fee payers rightly insist that the BBC must be free from political interference.

Mr Allen continues to dig a bigger hole for himself when he said Mr Campbell was one of the most 'senior and influential' figures in the Labour movement. A matter of opinion Mr Allen, a matter of opinion. The juvenile behaviour of Campbell holding up a photograph of David Laws at the end of the programme, while suggesting he had been scheduled to appear, was pathetic.

What Mr Allen fails to understand is that the British public like fair play and his adoration of Mr Campbell is seen as favouritism - by me anyway. In recent years the quality of debate of Question Time has diminished, with the occasional exception. The few times they base the programme in Scotland many of the panel are bussed (or taxied) in from England and have little knowledge of Scottish politics.

I would like to see No 10 continuing to make a stand by refusing to present a government minister unless there is a shadow government minister also on the panel. If the BBC want a quality political discussion programme that is the way to proceed.

Maybe it is time for the BBC to close the curtains on the David Dimbleby chat show.


Unknown said...

I agree. Question time works when there are elected MPs on the show, it fails when there are mostly commentators.

The show has dived in quality recently. I would suggest it is time for something different.

As for Alistair Campbell, I am not surprised the Conservatives did not want to 'honour' him. The man is hated by many and the BBC seem the last bastion of the Alastair 'love in'.

JRB said...

Well, well, well – at last we have someone who is brave enough to think the unthinkable; to speak the unspeakable – that perhaps Question Time has indeed descended from a mature debate to a minor chat show; and that it has outlived its usefulness.

( A similar fate should equally befall Andrew Neil’s dreadful This Week programme)

Well done Subrosa.

William said...

QT has always been a mixture of commentators and politicians. The programme has never been the exclusive preserve of politicians and nor should it.

The reality is that the coalition government were terrified Campbell would rip their candidate a new arse on the show. This probably would have happened with the exception of one or two senior members of the coalition.

Having promised a 'new politics', we find the coalition running a mile from a televised debate because it might prove too difficult for them and offer too many annoying questions.

Not a promising start.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that this is merely the first shot across the bows of the BBC from a government that is very intent on dismantling the BBC oligarchy of its left wing bias.

William said...

One would have hoped, M, that there would be enough intelligence in the new coalition to appreciate that the BBC is a valuable content producer/talent developer and a tremendous cultural ambassador for this country.

Obviously not.

"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

subrosa said...

Thanks Fiale. It has been dire recently and I don't see it improving in the future.

subrosa said...

Morning John. Thank you. I'm glad there are others who agree it's now past its sell-by date.

Lovely sunshine here.

subrosa said...

Yes of course William, but the balance for years was elected politicians and two commentators. It only works that way.

Goodness you really are a Campbell fan aren't you. Don't read his books though, because your opinion may change radically.

I'm with the new government all the way on this.

subrosa said...

You could well be right M, but I'd like to think their refusal was based on fairness rather than that.

subrosa said...

The BBC is left wing William. Spend, spend, spend other people's money.

They follow their agenda which is not a balanced one.

Sgt Pepperspray said...

The BBC needs a good cleaning out. I never watch TV anymore and one of the reasons is because of the BBC. I refuse to pay a hundred and forty odd quid a year to a corporation that is run by and staffed by politically correct brainwashed noncers. The news (laughing) is nothing but a propaganda machine with common purpose indoctrinated news readers, correspondents and reporters spouting out the same sh*te every time they open their mouths. Political debate programs are so biased that one could just change the titles to Party Political Broadcast. And as for Question Time they may as well just chuck a brick through the tv screen as soon as the music starts. A bunch of condescending f*ckw*ts dodging issues. They should scrap it now and put the A team on in it's place or Knightrider , you know something with a little more intellectual ooooomph.

William said...

I couldn't care less about Alistair Campbell.

What happened to 'open government'? Is it only 'open' when Cameron and Clegg to get to pick the terms of the debate and their opponents? Refusing to send a minister to one of the most important political programmes in the UK simply because you don't like one of the participants is pathetic and childish. There's no principle here. They feared being skewered and wanted the BBC to replace Campbell with a stooge that they could trample over. That's not democracy, or 'open government' or 'new politics'.

William said...

SR, try and put your own prejudices aside for one minute.

The BBC is the biggest cultural producer in Britain and the biggest cultural exporter in Britain. Almost three-quarters of the British Film Institute’s 100 greatest TV programmes ( were made by the BBC. That is what the BBC does and that level of content production is not going to be picked up by ITV1 or Sky One, let's be honest.

I struggle to comprehend why anyone would want to destroy one of the best institutions in this country. I understand why the likes of Rupert Murdoch and the Daily Mail are opposed to the BBC - the idea of something being good and owned by the public must make them sick - but ordinary people? It's baffling. I can imagine they must believe - how bizarre it seems - the News International/Mail propaganda that it would be in the public interest for something successful and worthy to be transferred into private profit.

Some people will believe anything, unfortunately.

Unknown said...

William - you think that the labour party Shadow cabinet are stooges that can be easily walked over ?

Strange, seems the party has fallen even further than I thought.

subrosa said...

I seldom watch BBC Sgt, and receive my moneysworth from BBC radio.

The A Team - now you're talking. :)

subrosa said...

Erm William, a debate is usually between/among people of similar standing. With just one elected politician to be on that programme last night it wasn't a debate. It was a chat show.

subrosa said...

Ah William, you've hit the nail right on the head. 'Were' being the word. Yes, in my lifetime the BBC did provide excellent programmes. We have nothing of their like today. Why? Because the BBC don't have enough money.

20/30 years ago programmes such as Hancock etc were produced on a shoe string. It's possible to do the same again.

The insist upon using the likes of Dimbleby to present some documentaries when there is so much talent out there waiting to be 'discovered'. But no, can't upset the oldies.

BBC Alba does a very good job with a limited budget. Why the others can't manage I don't know. Possibly because the team at Alba don't pay themselves exorbitant salaries.

William said...

Fiale, I don't think that but it's clear Cameron and Clegg didn't fancy sending one of their men over the top - they expected him to be massacred. They wanted an 'easier' opponent. It is the BBC's refusal to conform to this request that caused the coalition government to storm off in a huff. It's the 'new politics', working in the national interest, y'unnerstaun, etc, etc.

William said...

SR, it was a debate. I watched it. It wasn't a chat show and your insistence on calling it such is making you look as juvenile as Cameron and Clegg. Quite a feat.

You clearly have an issue with Dimbleby, for some reason. Did he kill your cat or something? The BBC is without equal in this country. If you think the cultural output of the country would improve in the hands of Sky or ITV then you're mistaken. You're playing with fire here. Your chums on the anti-BBC side aren't interested in cultural heritage or developing talent. They want topless darts and Hitler porn. Be careful, be very, very careful.

William said...

It's ironic that you cite BBC Alba as a BBC success story. I consider it typical of the kind of self-indulgent nonsense that politicians force on the BBC from time to time. There's no reason for such a channel and it's a waste of money.

Unfortunately, the BBC has to jump through these hoops so that it can be left alone to produce proper television. If Cameron/Clegg were really mature, honest, new politics, open government, national interest, etc. they should have announced that the BBC licence fee was safe for the next 20 years and that the BBC was a valued institution free from political interference. This could have liberated the BBC and gave it room to breathe. However, politicians - even open, honest guys like Cameron and Clegg (no sniggering please) - don't like media freedom so they prefer to keep the BBC jumping through hoops to please them for fear of losing funding. Last night was just an example of an abuse of power by Cameron and Clegg. A pair of cowards. You keep standing by the sidelines applauding them though, SR.

subrosa said...

I'm not juvenile William. I'm old enough to remember when QT was superior debate.

Last night's programme, and many others recently, were discussions. You can't debate without an equal present. John Redwood was the only elected person out of 5. That's not equality, that's bias.

I have no problem with Dimbleby, I just think he's past his sell-by date and unfortunately younger talent gets no chance while he continues to hog our screens.

My chums on the anti-BBC? William, what pills are you taking today? Stop them now, you're becoming deluded.

subrosa said...

You're one of few who don't think BBC Alba is a quality channel William.

It was your lords and masters who brought it into being. I would have thought you'd applaud it loudly. I mean, Gordon and co. will be rather disappointed you know.

I'm not applauding anyone William. I say what I think. I'm a free agent and I have no party line to cow-tow to at all.

Mrs Rigby said...

You beat me too it Subrosa. I think we have similar opinions.

INCOMING!!!!!!! said...


Enjoy. :-)

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Quite often and rightly the acronym BBC is referred to as either the Biased or English Broadcasting Corporation; I prefer to refer to it as the Establishment Broadcasting Corporation. And as such it comes as no surprise when it raps the knuckles of lesser Establishment institutions, such as Westminster, when they tend to wander off the Establishment line.

We have to cognizant of, in today's values, spin and propaganda is the bedrock substance is built on.

In the case of Question Time, when held in Scotland the sheer lack of questions related to independence would indicate not only are the majority of the panel bus'd in but also the audience.

Either that or the 'spontaneity' is subject to greater editing than Queenies speech.

Unknown said...

Biased Broadcasting Corporation I can understand.

But BBC almost choke whenever they have to mention England. They often bend over so far backwards that it breaks their spine in an attempt to not say the 'E' word - So English Broadcasting Corporation, no way sireee.

subrosa said...

Mrs R, please do write your post as I will, as always, enjoy reading it.

subrosa said...

How thoughtful of you Incoming and I did enjoy. In fact watched it twice. :)

Lee Child's books always remind me of the A Team. Not that I ever had that much respect for MPs in my day.

William said...

"You're one of few who don't think BBC Alba is a quality channel William."

Now I know you really are joking. A minority channel for a collection of lunatics is as far removed from the definition of 'quality' as you can get.

So you want Dimbleby replaced purely on grounds of age? Nice one.

To the OP, the BBC has done nothing wrong here. It's the coalition government that failed by trying to dictate terms. Your solution to this abuse of power, that the programme in question should therefore be abolished, is a joke.

Idle Pen Pusher said...

SR - I agree QT seems worse than it used to be. I also agree Campbell's stunt was a touch juvenile. But I don't think it's really a 'chat show'. It's debate, just not of as high quality a I'd like. That might have more to do with the electorate than anything, though.

I also think, like Toby Young, that it was a mistake for Downing Street to throw a tantrum. I can see why they did it: risk a cabinet minister for a shadow. But Alastair Campbell is -or was- hugely important and it just seems churlish to do what they did.

Can you imagine how it'd look for the BBC if they backed down to government demands? Not good.

Unknown said...

I agree: QT has had its day especially under Dimbleby, but even under another presenter, I doubt if it could be rescued.


Henry Wood said...

I fully agree with you Subrosa. My comments to the Question Time editor's blog where he tried to justify his position were:

The [QT] editor says: "It is a fundamental principle of our independence..."
I will class you as "independent" the day you are not funded by a compulsory tax on the majority of citizens of the UK.
You amply demonstrated your so-called independence by your line-up on last night's programme. It became the latest edition of Question Time I switched off early due to the inept handling of some panellists by your chairman who is now well past his use by date. I have rarely missed an edition from the very first, when the guests were Michael Foot, Teddy Taylor, Edna O'Brien and Derek Worlock, the Archbishop of Liverpool. And it was chaired by Robin Day, a proper chairman who knew how to keep impartial order.
Some urgent reforms are needed on Question Time if it is ever again to be respected as a serious political programme.
From what I can see on the site the great majority of commentators have the same viewpoint as you and I.

subrosa said...

I doubt it too Harry. Time to move on. I'm sure there are plenty young talented people who could present a sharper, more interactive programme.

We used to have good political presenters on BBC radio here such as Lesley Riddoch but she was free lance and they cut her out of it a couple of years ago.

subrosa said...

Hello Henry. Plenty others will agree with you although Garbo who write for Matt Wardman's blog completely disagrees with us.

I too stopped watching it last night. For me it outdated and the usual biases show more distinctly each week.

Frugal Dougal said...

Of course Cambell is one of the most influential figures in Labour, which merely underlines their contempt for the equality of democracy. On the programme Cambell referred to the BBCas an "independent broadcaster" - in Labour doublespeak, "independent" is synonymous with "left-wing".

The last time I looked, appearing on Question Time was not part of the social contract between electors and elected.

subrosa said...

I agree there's no social contract for the elected to appear on QT Dougal, yet the format was usually 2 or 3 elected representatives and a couple of commentators. I thought it was a political programme and not one for BBC luvvies.

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