Dear BBC Question Time, Your Show is Part of the Problem

C51Dear BBC Question Time,

I’m writing this letter as a license fee payer, viewer and previous audience member of the show.  I’m writing because your format has become as outdated as roller skates and the gramophone.

Each week, it’s two members of the government, and a member of Blue Labour.  You couldn’t squeeze a cigarette paper between their policies, so we get to yawn through an hour of these corrupted charlatans violently agreeing with each other.

Then we have someone from the mainstream media.  If they’re from the right, they bemoan social liberalism while fully endorsing most of everything else.  If the journalist is from the liberal section of the media, they tear a strip off some more conservative panellist, but they’re final position is “hold your nose and vote for the guy in the red tie, they’re the least worst option”.

All roads lead to the establishment, and the one economic and political idea dominating and destroying our world.

In fact, it almost seems you seek to terrify people into accepting this bullshit fait accompli, by ensuring the only permitted ‘alternative’ guests are proto-fascists like UKIP or the BNP.  UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage has been a member of the QT panel 14 times since 2009, more than any other politician, and his henchwoman Diane James has taken a seat several times this year.  Nigel had his 15th appearance this week – a week  where we found half a million people had been kicked off their benefits, 80,000 children will be homeless this Christmas and MPs were having their energy bills paid for by the taxpayer…and once again the show ignored these issues and focused on immigration.

We have a massive and growing democratic deficit in our politics, our economics, and our media – and beloved QT, you are part of the problem.  Your show fails pitifully to reflect the tension and battle of ideas taking place in the UK today.

We need a Question Time, but not this weekly pantomime of finger waving and verbal flatulence.

We need a proper Question Time, representative of the real means of political expression right now.

Protest is back, campaigning is back, community growing and sharing is back, local areas are creating their own currencies – awesome shit is going down QT, and you are missing it!

So, here are some ideas to start you off.

Each week, we have an MP/representative from the government, Labour and Greens.  The fourth seat goes to the mainstream media.  The fifth seat doesn’t go an actor, comedian or socialite – but to someone from the political non-establishment.  In no particular order:

What about having a proper debate about International Aid, Debt and Development with Nick Dearden, who has led campaigns for the Jubilee Debt Campaign and now the World Development Movement?

What about getting a proper critique of the flaws in our economic model by Ann Pettifor of the New Economics Foundation?

Sue Marsh is an excellent advocate, activist and writer.  You should have her on to give voice to the fight back by disabled people up and down the country who are facing destitution due to welfare cuts.

How about getting some working class young people on the panel in the shape of Sean Donnelly? His F the Tories Freestyle rap might well be the anthem of our times?

Sod those sold out Union bosses! How about public service heroes such as fire fighter Jamie Newell, or one of the thousands of doctors, nurses and concerned people who have united to create the National Health Action Party?

What about an Anarchist, an Occupier; a Communist or a member of the Zeitgeist movement?

There’s loads of them out there QT.  Loads of intelligent, articulate, inspirational people who have ideas bigger than the tiny box presented by our parliament, our media and your show.  Invite them!

Now, if I were being cynical – I might suggest that my letter is all in vain, and that your show is part of the problem; that your show serves to keep people thinking small, forming unbreakable shackles around the brains of the audience at home; that you confine their mental energies to the safe ground, this mythical centre ground, which just means the status quo.

I might suggest that it doesn’t serve the wealthy and privileged few that monopolise power within our institutions, to have the poor and exploited majority think too long or too hard about their predicament.  To ask questions like – why there is such inequality in our country and the world?

But of course, that would make me the kind of overly-cynical, paranoid, conspiracy theorist sort that no one in their right mind should listen to.  Wouldn’t it?

So, QT, do yourselves a favour and prove me wrong.  It would make my day.

Yours critically,




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52 thoughts on “Dear BBC Question Time, Your Show is Part of the Problem

  1. Great letter but I would be a little supportive of QT. I am sure many of us are irritated by the program at times but without it, I for one would watch about 30% less mainstream television.

    Oh and did I mention how impressively you articlated yourself?

  2. Absoloutly correct in every aspect, you have my support, tonight’s questiontime questions on Education was so, so wide of the mark, that i’m disgusted with the endless propaganda of the so called Elites, shut your false mouths, all of you and allow the debt jubilee. Soon will come mutiny, so stand down whilst you still can. Politician Snakes – we are told in our Bibles that we are allowed to tread on you. Anyone who reads the Saxon Chronicle knows what this country should be about, i hate all consequences since the Norman/Viking heathen invasion.

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    • Now I’m liberal so this sounds great to me but I fear this idea of a perfect question time panel is too one sided, also we seem to forget people such as Benjamin Zephinia and Owen Jones who have recently served the question time panel and who are both far leftists, intellectuals and activists in their own right.

      • Your contention that Owen Jones and Benjamin Zephinia are ‘far left’ is not surprising. The Tories, the right wing media and New Labour have shifted the ground so far to the right that the centre is now obscured to many who are easily swayed. As with others of their view, their proposals do not find favour with the establishment and therefore the establishment mobilises their right wing mouthpieces, including the BBC, to rail against them. In fact I regard Jones and Zephinia as being in the centre and each time they appear on QT they get great support from the audience, which the BBC tell us is a cross section of the public.

      • Rosie, thinking again about your post, I’m genuinely intrigued to know what Owen Jones or Benjamin Zephinia have said which could, in your eyes, deem them to be ‘far leftists’?

  4. Excellent analysis. Echoes my thoughts exactly. As regards UKIP and the numerous Farage appearances, I am given to wonder if some head honchos at the BBC are unofficially endorsing the UKIP position. they may argue that Farage’s appearances are simply down to the BBC attempting to reflect public opinion. However, I was in the audience for QT at Easterhosue in Glasgow last October and something highly worrying occurred prior to the recording: for those who don’t know, a QT “warm-up” takes place off-camera beforehand, to get the audience switched on and engaged. Members of the audience are asked to sit on the panel as mock guests and some of the questions not selected are asked in order to get the debate going. When the producer asked if anyone wanted to be a panel member, almost before he’d finished speaking a chap in a while suit right at the front immediately stood up and was accepted. When he turned round I got a spark of recognition. This man was in fact Paul Henke who announced himself as a novelist (which he is – a very bad one imho). What he failed to mention though, was that he is also the Scottish Chairman of UKIP. I onl;y recognised him because i’d had to interview him about one of his terrible books several years ago when I was a journalist. I immediately protested. The producer asked Henke if he was a politician, to which he (somewhat sheepishly) admitted. However, the producer allowed him to remain on the mock panel. “At least it isn’t the actual programme” I mused. However, there was more to come. When, prior to the recording, the producer announced which questions had been selected for the programme, guess whose question was chosen? Yep, Henke! I protested again. “This man is NOT a member of the public. He’s a politician. This is wrong!”. An understandable rumble of dissent and a few hisses and “oohs” permeated through the audience. They didn’t like it either but seemed less prepared to make as much noise about it.
    I made a decision. if this man got the chance to ask his question I was going to disrupt the recording, making the point that Henke had every opportunity to make political points in the media via UKIP’s own media machine. He had a voice and a platform and those people who apply to be a QT audience member do so precisely because they DON’T have that luxury. If he is allowed to ask his question it will bring the whole notion and ethos of QT into disrepute and smell very strongly of a stitch-up! I didn’t have to do this though. Whether by chance, lack of time, or because the producers detected that there might be a problem, Henke was passed over and he didn’t get the chance to make his point. I still wonder to this day if the whole thing wasn’t a contrivance. I suspect though that this was a cynical and underhanded ploy from UKIP themselves to get the UKIP view on air, given that they were not invited onto the panel.

  5. The BBC and especially QT will always support the two main parties and give them the usually airtime as you said, to violently agree with each other. Why? Because it’s probably going to be a blue tory or a red tory that is going to be PM and they decide if the BBC will be privatised. If you always have the sharp blade of privatisation held to your neck, you are going to give them what they want and show those people who still fall for the fallacy of no-representative-you-have-chosen plutocracy, who to vote for.

  6. So true – in more than just broad outline. There have been several times when I could have quite happily shot Dimbleby for blocking an interesting thread, though on the other hand there are times when firm control is needed – it’s just that the boundary seems to be rather close to favouring an establishment position.
    While I confess ignorance of several suggested panelists, they sound as if they could brighten up the proceedings but there are also a number of other arenas whose representation could usefully be improved. Why to the oldies’ views always seem to come from Joan Bakewell, or aged Finance ministers? If you want critical – and thoughtful contributions, there are others who can provide it – say Lords May (wide knowledge of science/environment) and Hutchison (long time since he defended Lady Chatterly – so he might prefer a video link rather than travel) or baroness Boothroyd (well able to control the politicians). As for a more stimulating view, what about Will Self? or a representative from the Big Issue arena? Or better still, why not invite Dot Gibson or Neil Duncan-Jordan? The NPC has been knocking on the QT door for years only to be fobbed off with weak excuses. After all, there are 12 million of us making up a large and significant proportion of the QT audience!

  7. Excellent letters. Better than “none of the above” is “none of the above and determined to concentrate on the needs and aspirations of the electorate” that is, Independent. In Local Government we have about the same number of Independent Councillors as Lib Dems. Of the 2,300 Independent group elected Councillors, 75% are Independent, 10% UKIP. 8 and 6% Green and Plaid. Most of the public are not party members at all! So how about a fair representation of politically active, dedicated Independent representatives who are determined to put the needs and aspirations of their communities first?

  8. They are all in it together. I do not support any particular political party, but I am a great believer in the BBC remaining impartial and sadly since the last election it has clearly been the propaganda plaything of the Conservative Party. QT is only part of this bias, but when the chairman of the BBC Trust is a former Thatcher cabinet minister, your chief political editor is the former chair of Oxford Conservative and your chief political presenter is an admittedly dyed in the wool Tory, it is no surprise the BBC has lost all sense of its legal obligation to remain politically impartial. It beggars belief when Tories moan about the ‘lefty’ BBC as anyone who makes this observation is either so right wing that the centre ground appears communist or they have ulterior motives.

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  10. we could have our own ‘peoples question time’. get a few of our own experts and throw a debate outside parliament buildings on how we can change it. need a big audience though

    • The Green’s alone in the UK, now have Full Reserve Banking reform as policy, voted in this September. If you don’t know what this reform means, then you are not really fit to comment. On anything really. Certainly anything that involves human transactions mediated by money. Even the IMF support it. Our money supply is privatised at interest. Interest is charged as a percentage. A percentage has a doubling time, 7% is ten years. A doubling time is exponential growth. Exponential growth is cancer. Interest is a wealth pump from the poorest 90% to the richest 10%. Bank shareholders get all the interest. The exponential growth in the wealth gap is caused by interest. Half of ALL prices in aggregate is interest. So YES. Lets have an MP who supports legislation for money reform on QT every week. Which means Caroline Lucas every week. Until the penny (excuse the pun) drops. And everyone realises that the elephant in the room is our privatised money supply at interest. The addition of three words “and electronic money” to prime minister Robert Peel’s Bank Charter Act of 1844 would do the trick…

  11. I too have attended QT and it’s a farce for all the reasons you give. The programme touts itself as being impartial, only answering questions from the audience. Actually, it’s anything but impartial, the featured questions are vetted first and only those that fit the producer’s agenda are chosen. Why even bother with the pretence? There should be no vetted questions, all questions should come directly from the audience or picked out of a hat.

    Also, pension Dimbleby off, he’s far too pompous and overbearing.

    I’ve noticed that any political comment programmes produced by ‘Mentorn’ or the BBC have a similar bias i.e. heavily right wing with mainly ‘safe’ Labour spokespeople, time after time.

    This is actually a very serious issue and it needs an independent inquiry to highlight the failings of this and other programmes, otherwise the lack of proper representation for different points of view is going to get even worse. To see the likes of Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell popping up on the BBC to rehabilitate themselves is nauseating in the extreme.

    The BBC, one of our best institutions, is slowly being destroyed by mediocre managers, Mark Thompson was one of the worst. By dumbing down to attract larger audiences with trash programmes, the BBC is failing catastrophically to fulfil two of its tenets – to inform and educate.

    Anyone who wants to see good journalism now has to go to other media, for example, Abby Martin on RT.

      • Abby Martin highlights glaring inconsistencies in the 9/11 Commission Report’s conclusions and their failure to take much important testimony into account. This is exactly what any good journalist should do. These are not her opinions, they are major documented contradictions and errors in the official narrative, there for all to see, which have never been explained.

  12. I am an occasional viewer of the show , which I like. However I agree with Scriptonite that nothing chnages, although almost everybody in the audience agrees with what is being said, in truth, nuch like what is written on ‘Scriptonite’. The BBC is run by right wingers, and they do not want change. Dimbleby is a right winger, as are most of the BBC presenters, as this is what they represent. It ( the BBC)gives them employment, and a good living. Why should they change things. Lets just get on with the pretence, that God is in his heaven, and all is right with the world! ( Well it certainly is for some!).

  13. I propose Don Flynn of the Migrants Right Network as someone to talk about the Government and media stance on immigration versus the real world.

  14. Great post. One thing though, with some of the alternatives to choose from, would our MP’s be so willing to put them selves up against them lol. Would make for very interesting tv!

  15. Hang on, why should the Greens get an automatic seat when their poll ratings are through the floor? Surely that seat should go to UKIP who, however much you obviously despise them, are growing in popularity. A panel cannot and should not adhere to your view of the world.

    • Simple answer to that: UKIP have never won a seat. The Green Party have a sitting MP. So your assessment of their success in gaining electoral support is incorrect.

      • Yes, but Lucy Brown clearly stated that their poll ratings are increasing, suggesting that QT should reflect the prevailing political climate at time of recording?

        Also: ‘Simple answer to that: UKIP have never won a seat. The Green Party have a sitting MP. So your assessment of their success in gaining electoral support is incorrect.’

        So I take it, then that you’re fully in favour of the ‘first past the post’ system that we operate in this corruption of a democracy that we call the UK? Or does that support only apply when the lumpenmasse have elected the correct ‘right-on’ candidate as in the case of my hometown, B’ton?

        • I don’t think the point is that UKip Should never get to participate. Just that they shouldn’t be on every bloody week. See also: Peter Hitchens who does nothing but peddle some romanticised middle class puritan view of how society should be while dismissing anything that he doesn’t like or understand such as drugs, atheism, workers rights, climate change, or the 21st century.

      • While I wholeheartedly agree with the vast majority of what you say in the letter, there are couple of minor points. Caroline Lucas would certainly be a good addition and your point about the Greens having an elected MP, so too do Democratic Unionist, SNP, Sinn Fein, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Alliance and Respect with the first five having more MPs than the Greens so, while personally I would far rather see Lucas than Democratic Unionist MPs, using the criterion of sitting MPs for some of the contributors, the others should have a place too. And while I also agree with the exclusion of actors, comedians and socialites, Bonnie Greer stood head and shoulders above the other contributors when they made the foolish decision to give space to Nick Griffen.

  16. I haven’t watched that dreadful show for years. It’s turgid and phony for all the reasons described. But it’s not really about “debate” at all, more about giving the impression of “debate”. In one sense it’s quite a useful guide to how appalling and useless our “democratic choice” is. The worst thing about it is probably it’s massively inflated sense of self importance. There’s not even that much depth analysis. The establishment party drones just trot out whatever phrases they were prepped with, probably at around 4pm on the day of filming. The soundbites can be heard any day of the week from different mouths around the lamestream media.

  17. Mention should be made to the way Dimbleby has an irritating way of interrupting speakers, similar to Paxman antics.

  18. Really well said.
    I have just been told by a follower cases, such as my own should be given a higher media profile to illustrate just how captured our regulators are but with scripted political debate so often being the only message ever broadcast there is little hope the plight of the individual will ever command a leading role. I wrote this in an effort to add my voice to those who champion change.

  19. “Each week, we have an MP from the government, Labour and Greens.” Poor Caroline Lucas will have her work cut out being on every week!

    As usual – spot on! The BBC has a cultural problem with political inclusion that has historical roots. When the BBC was developing its media role in the UK, there was a real difference between the main political parties that included most of the spectrum of a broad political opinion, including radical voices. At the same time there was a much greater cultural conservatism. With real or perceived threats from fascists, communists and cultural libertarians and with the Establishment regarding radio and TV as powerful media, the BBC news and current affairs developed a culture that was inclusive of the spectrum within electoral politics, while fostering compromise for stability.

    The world has now changed, with the challenging media being the internet and with party politics coalescing to the right. Voting is increasingly something that older more culturally conservative people do and parties are ‘owned’ by the wealthy individuals and corporations that fund them. The biggest threat to national stability is from growing social and generational inequality and the failure to invest in a viable, sustainable future that is not dependent on exploiting other people around the world. This threat is increased when it is presented as terrorism, immigration and benefit scrounging by the main parties, whose main concern is to deflect pressure away from addressing the need for real change.

    We therefore have a situation where the BBC faces a political threat if it tries to be genuinely inclusive of the real national political debate. The parties that can remove or change the BBC charter are no longer essentially democratic, but are PR organisations funded by the rich to legitimise government on their behalf. The people who work for the BBC need to decide if they are willing to surrender to this, or to use the remaining credibility and influence of their organisation in an attempt to rescue democracy. Perhaps in choosing to give Russell Brand an interview Paxman was exploring this territory, but I find it hard to see Dimbellbee having the courage to do anything interesting.

  20. well said…and whilst we are on the Q.T. subject..what about that infuriating habit of Mr Dimbleby ? The one where he repeats the audience members question after they have asked it…whats all that about?? Why is it necessary? We heard it the first time Mr Dimbleby thankyou…

    • You might have heard the question, but for those of us with hearing impairments and those of us who follow it on Text, such a facility is very useful, if not essential. We might not hear the question because the microphone was misplaced, the questioner has an unfamilar accent or is reading into their lap, not projecting their voice. Repeating the audience member’s question is just about the ONLY thing that Dimbleballs gets right!

  21. Lol giving the green party a permanent seat on BBC QT. Yes they’re so huuuugeeely popular they’re polling in double figures… oh wait.

    Otherwise your idea isn’t bad, except you’ll have to accept right-wing think tanks getting a seat – Adam Smith Institute, Institute of Directors, Taxpayers Alliance.

    Else this article is just a long whinge that Question Time isn’t left enough.

    • I’d gladly see the Taxpayers Alliance on there. Anyone with savvy would interogate the frauds as to why they don’t speak up for Taxpayers against corporate tax avoiders, bailout leeches, corrupt government sell offs of taxpayer assets and appalling PFI rip-offs

      • I’d like to see Taxpayers Against Austerity on there. As for the Greens, they poll better than UKIP nationwide, though you wouldn’t know it from the coverage. Their policies (if you just ask people about policies without mentioning the parties that hold them) are popular and they have an MP, so I think they should get a bit more time than UKIP. With debates about energy bills and price freezes (or old people freezes) they are very relevant.

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