Friday 29 October 2010

Questioning Question Time

I was so irritated by Question Time last week, I actually took the bother of emailing them rather than just grumbling as usual.

"I was deeply offended and disappointed by last night's edition of Question Time, in particular by Mr Dimbleby's quite deliberate marginalisation of issues of importance to Scotland.

It seems to me that by moving Question Time to various locations allows viewers to gain an insight into topical debates in the Nations and regions which make up the United Kingdom. I would find it interesting to hear what is going on in Wales, for example, and feel that for viewers elsewhere, it might be interesting to hear what is being debated in Scotland.

This week Scotland saw a significant change in the law, arguments over priorities in education, the proposed closure of military bases and maintaining of aircraft carrier contracts; meaty issues all. None of these were discussed.

Furthermore, hosting Question Time around the UK gives an opportunity to hear from Scottish politicians from a range of parties (including the Greens, who have been represented in the Scottish Parliament for eleven years now) and from the Scottish Government.

Quite disgracefully, Nicola Sturgeon was consistently interrupted by David Dimbleby, and was not allowed to present the positions of the SNP and the policies of the Scottish Government. The SNP have a serious contribution to make, which was not reflected in the manner in which Nicola Sturgeon was treated by Mr Dimbleby. Comments by other panellists also struck me as having more than a hint of patronising sexism, which went unchallenged by the host.

The issue of Megrahi was dropped into a debate quite purposefully and deliberately by Mr Dimbleby, who then called for comment by the four other panel members but not Ms Sturgeon, whose Government took the quite legally and morally correct position to release a dying man. The last time Question Time was in Scotland, the issue was also raised, seemingly with the purpose of attempting to embarrass the Scottish Government. It was not a 'current' issue in the press, or a matter which required further debate; the decision has been made and is final! I find it quite unacceptable that your programme makes it seem as though this is the one and only issue significant in Scotland.

I find it unacceptable that Scottish issues have no outlet in UK-wide programmes such as Question Time. Scottish issues are never debated when programmes are held outwith Scotland, and when the programme is held in Scotland, apparently we're not allowed to debate Scottish issues then either.

Health, education, crime, and a whole host of other issues irrelevant to devolved parts of the UK are debated week in week out on Question Time without proviso or clarification. It's about time that the rest of the UK got a proper opportunity to glean information about what is important in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and each of the English regions. If hosting in different locations is not to be an opportunity to do this, there's little point in the show moving from London at all.

I hope for better, but thus far and increasingly more often, I am left disappointed.

Kind regards,

Alison Thewliss"

The response just arrived, looking remarkably similar to that issued to Joan McAlpine:

"Dear Ms Thewliss

Thanks for your feedback regarding ‘Question Time’ broadcast on 28 October 2010.

We appreciate some viewers felt chairman David Dimbleby showed anti-Scottish bias by reminding Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about the programme’s wider UK audience.

‘Question Time’ approaches every edition with a broad and wide-ranging remit, covering the major events in the political landscape during the week. We travel across the UK, and local examples are often cited by audience members to highlight a wider point. However this does not mean that the programme seeks to discuss only regionally-specific matters.

On this occasion the panel were expressing their sentiments on the announcement of the most recent GDP figures for the UK. During this discussion Deputy First Minister Sturgeon said “there’s another point on growth, it’s important for a Scottish audience”.

David simply interjected to remind Deputy First Minister Sturgeon that not only was she speaking to the studio audience in Glasgow but also to viewers across the UK.

One of his key roles as chairman is to keep panellists to the specific question under discussion and not to potentially divert to other party political points. He was not stopping her from raising a regional/national point - as has been heard in recent weeks with the al-Megrahi case or the Corus steelworks matter - but simply reminding her of the core programme need for this point to resonate with and be relevant to a UK-wide BBC One audience.

Thanks for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards

BBC Audience Services"

I despair.

I spoke to Tory Councillor David Meikle yesterday, and he described the long conversation he had with a member of the Question Time team before getting selected to attend. He's not a nat by any stretch of the imagination, but felt there were plenty of Scottish issues to discuss, all of which were ruled out by the member of BBC staff he spoke to. A letter in today's Herald describes a similar conversation.

This evident anti-Scotland bias is unacceptable, and it has to stop.


cynicalHighlander said...

Bog standard reply as they are not interested in anywhere outside the home counties.

There is a campaign on the go.

Dubbieside said...

It appears to me that part of the problem lies with the SNP government themselves with being too passive when interviewed on Pravda North.

I watched Mike Russell destroy Brewer on Newsnicht last week and I thought what a pity we are only three years too late. We should have been doing this much earlier, and not just Russell all SNP ministers.

The SNP should also do a lot more to highlight the fact that even though we pay the same license fee as everyone else we get a far inferior service. In fact we do not even get what we pay for as I believe that only 4% of the BBCs income is spent in Scotland. If this is correct we should be highlighting that the Scottish license payer should be paying less than half what the English license payer is paying.

Scots subsidizing English TV, yet another union benefit.

On the more specific point about the reply to your letter, did the SNP government send in an official letter of complaint? and if not why not? Would an official complaint received such a reply?

Where are all the complaints to Ofcom? I believe there is also a department in the EU about fair and balanced media, how often have the SNP complained to that body?

If you act like a doormat (the SNP), do not be surprised if people walk all over you.

cynicalHighlander said...

Sorry but we can not let this go on anymore as it is anti democratic and totaly unfair of the BBC. Action please as enough is enough.

BellgroveBelle said...

Thanks for all your comments. Dubbieside - I agree Michael Russell was fantastic on Newsnight, but it goes to show how poor the BBC can be. It should have been an interesting factual interview, rather than a fight kicked off by lazy journalism.

I have no idea if a complaint was made by the party.

I have submitted the following response; if the answer is still unsatisfactory, I'll gladly pursue to the next level.

"Dear Sir or Madam,

The response you have sent me is a generic one, which does not answer the points and constructive criticism I took the time to write. I understand that several other people who complained about the broadcast on the 28th of October received identical responses.This is completely unsatisfactory.

I would be grateful if someone (an actual person, rather than the rather anonymous 'BBC Audience Services') would respond to the points I actually raised, as opposed to the ones you expected me to raise.

Kind regards,

Alison Thewliss"