How balanced is the BBC’s Question Time?

by Stephen Tall on February 4, 2008

That’s the question LDV posed in last Thursday’s Open Thread on the programme. It was prompted not only by the absence of a Lib Dem on the panel, but also by the appearance of a second Tory-in-all-but-name, Amanda Platell, alongside former Tory chancellor, Ken Clarke (as well as former Tory MP, and now New Labour cabinet minister, Shaun Woodward).

So what?, you might ask. And fair enough, except that this was the fourth consecutive QT in which a Tory-aligned commentator has been signed up to appear alongside the official Tory representative. Ms Platell followed in the stilettos of Sarah Sands (former Sunday Telegraph editor), Louise Bagshaw (Tory PPC) and Kirstie Allsopp (Tory celebrity).

Andrew Hinton took up the cudgels on behalf of the Lib Dems, and has published his findings here. They show that the BBC is pretty scrupulous in ensuring balance on QT between official representatives of the three main political parties. What’s less clear, though, is whether the BBC is quite as careful in ensuring balance between those it selects to be the non-politicians on the panel. Would the BBC, for instance, put up Sandi Toksvig alongside a Lib Dem MP?

(Amusingly, those terribly sane folk at the Biased-BBC blog have managed, who knows how, to accuse Auntie of stuffing QT’s panels with “foaming-at-the mouth lefties”. Bless.)

Anyway, if you have complaints about the media coverage of the Lib Dems, don’t just write a comment on the LDV public blog, or the members-only forum, complain to the folk responsible:

BBC – T: 08700 100 222,
Sky News –, E:
ITN – T: 020 7833 3000, E:
Channel 4 – T: 020 7396 4444, E:

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Is there a considerably smaller pool of non-politician liberal celeb/journalists to go at though. The two that spring to mind are Yasmin Alibai-Brown and Mark Littlewood. By contrast on the right I can think of Littlejohn, Hitchens, Phillips. I’m going to stop there as no liberal should be forced to comtemplate those three at the same time!

by Hywel Morgan on February 4, 2008 at 8:52 pm. Reply #

Yes, everyone please complain to the BBC. That will surely make them sit up and take notice. And no-one will be able to accuse us of being a bunch of whiners . . .

by Laurence Boyce on February 4, 2008 at 10:13 pm. Reply #

Shami, also, is a liberalish celeb, surely?

by Jennie on February 4, 2008 at 10:46 pm. Reply #

Shami is, indeed, on of the two liberal aligned people who are recorded in my findings.

by Andy Hinton on February 4, 2008 at 11:08 pm. Reply #

As I have said before on this topic, QT seems to stick really quite strongly to a form of PR. So the Tories, typically on 40% of the vote get ~2/5 and the Lib Dems on ~15% get just less than one every week. For the right, QT often seem to pick one politician and one commentator (although recently I seem to recall an MP and a PPC).

Now, given that the average Lib Dem is generaly pretty hot on proportioanl representation, it seems rather hypocritical to object to what QT are doing.

And as for last week, to begin with I thought “Mmmm, a no Lib Dem week”, but then a lot of what Bonnie Greer came out with seemed pretty consistent with what many Lib Dems (particularly of the left-leaning variety) would think. SO I think the BBC probably had their bases covered (and I don’t know the BBC’s policy but I rather suspect that Ms Toksvig would not tend to be put up with a Lib Dem MP but would also appear in what might look to those not in the know as a no-lib-dem week).

by Passing Tory on February 5, 2008 at 7:17 am. Reply #

Actually the Lib Dem’s had over 20% of the popular vote at the last election so there should be a Lib Dem on the panel every week.

by Lee Griffin on February 5, 2008 at 11:08 am. Reply #

There seems to be a Daily Mail spokesman each week.

by TimberWolf on February 5, 2008 at 12:21 pm. Reply #

Lee, my observation is that the BBC tend to go according to the current poll ratings, not the results of the previous election which does make some sense even if you disagree with it.

by passing tory on February 5, 2008 at 12:52 pm. Reply #

I am sick to the back teeth of youngsters getting so much air time.You seem to forget the senior sitizens pay your wages.Why can’t the oldens challenge Ministers,or are you biased againsed the older generation?Typical BBC.They get away with murder.I cannot complain to Question Time because they will not let me.

by Terry Doran on June 1, 2008 at 10:51 pm. Reply #

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