(for instance Stephen Pollard, Clive Davis, Harry’s Place, etc.) about the dreadfully biased studio audience selected to appear on last week’s BBC news special, Questions of Security (surely Questions of Terrorism?), the BBC has admitted that “there was a deliberately disproportionate number of Muslims in [the] studio audience”. Truly astonishing.
‘Disproportionate’ hardly begins to describe the situation – according to the BBC, “around 15% of the audience” was Muslim, “as opposed to 2.7% of the country as a whole” – in other words, Muslims were more than five times over-represented. Judging from the aggressive self-righteousness of so many of the apparent Muslims among the questioners, they weren’t even representative of British Muslims as a whole.
In the BBC’s admission, Anger at news special audience, hidden away in their Newswatch graveyard, Sue Inglish, Head of Political Programmes, says:
Huw Edwards explained at the start of the programme [that] the studio audience was made up of a variety of people from a range of communities, particularly those most affected by the questions we were discussing in the wake of the bombings of 7 July and the incidents on 21 July.
Unsurprisingly, Inglish is being more than a little disingenuous. At the beginning of the programme, after a long preamble, Edwards did slip in: “well now, our audience tonight includes representatives from some of the communities most affected by the recent events in London and of course elsewhere in the United Kingdom” – but that is a long way from saying “oh, and by the way, we’ve loaded the audience with five times more Muslims than you might expect”, which is how Inglish now expects us to interpret Edwards blather.
Moreover, it’s rich to imply that Britain’s Muslim population constitutes “some of the communities most affected” – leaving aside the fact that the community most affected by the appearance of Islamist terrorists (sorry BBC, bombers) in the UK happens to be all of us (as potential victims) – Muslim or not, the communities “most affected” surely start with the victims, families and friends of the 7/7 atrocities, followed by those who use London Transport and those who live and work in and around London.
This scandal of loading the Question Time audience (even more than usual), without admitting so up front in the programme, has shades of the nationally embarrassing Question Time following the 9/11 atrocities, which was so bad that Greg Dyke, then Director General, apologised to offended viewers and personally to Philip Lader, the former US ambassador, for his treatment on the programme. Was the selection of that audience similarly loaded? Is the BBC going to be honest and tell us?
The time has come for transparency in the selection of audiences for Question Time and other political programmes with audiences. No longer should it be down to the programme makers to screen audience members, selecting those who will participate, those who will get to ask questions and the questions themselves. Audience selection should be carried out by respectable independent organisations, by lottery from the electoral roll if need be, accountable only to the BBC’s governors, so that the producers and researchers may not skew the audience or influence the questions, intentionally or otherwise. And then perhaps Question Time will once more be for the people of Britain to ask questions of our leaders, rather than for the selectorate of the BBC to promote their perception of what matters (or what they think should matter) to the ordinary telly-tax payers who are forced to pay for the BBC.
One last point, just to add insult to injury, for those of us who are as proud to be British as our English comrades, when Inglish says “But the rest of the audience – around 85% – included representatives of a number of other different ethnic and religious groups, including Christian, Hindu, Sikh, African Caribbean, English, Irish, Kashmiri and Turkish”, she makes the classic BBC faux-pas of conflating English with British, whilst remembering to name just about every other ethnic group of any size in the UK. Typical.
You can view the programme and its loaded audience for yourself here:
Real Video format: Standard 34kbps or Higher quality 224kbps
Windows WMV format: Standard 34kbps or Higher quality 224kbps
Request: Does anyone have any links to or recordings of the dreadful edition of Question Time that followed the 9/11 atrocities? Thank you.
Update: This story has since been picked up by the Daily Express, a national newspaper in the UK. See above for updated Biased BBC coverage.