The parlour game of raging at the goggle-box every week as the BBC reeled out another panel of right-wing eejits for Question Time was getting a bit tired. We’d had wall-to-wall Farage and even Nick Griffin; trainloads of right-wing ‘think-tanks’ and ‘pressure groups’ you’d never heard of; programmes dislocated from place, attempts to shut-down speakers talking about Scotland in Scotland; bizarrely imbalanced panels and chairing that seemed to favour the hosts own chummy predilections. And the audiences seemed to be like cross-sections of a world you’d just never been in. Eventually I assumed that this just was the world outside my own bubble and that conspiracy notions about fixing BBCQT audiences were just my own daft lefty paranoia.
But – thanks to an alert reader – it seems that might not be so.
The role of the Audience Producer is to select the people who will form the audience, as this ‘Behind the Scenes’ article confirms:
“According to the the Question Time website, the heart of the programme is its audience. “We don’t invite anyone” said Hopkin. “We have a dedicated producer who chooses a representative audience that reflects the demographic length. It is an honestly picked audience.” Every week audience producer Alison Fuller has to select the audience and, depending on the city they are in, this can mean considering more than 4,000 applications. This process involves checking the background of every applicant against their political affiliations, campaign involvements, advertising intentions, and many other factors. As the 150 people she selects are intended to embody the image of their city in the eyes of the programme’s nationwide audience, her job is one of the most important for the programme’s production.”
Her own Twitter account appears to be a muddle of BBCQT stuff and Leave endorsements.
— Alison Fuller (@Fullhouse21) May 16, 2016
She even invited the English Defence League to join the audience. As the Daily Politik wrote back in September:
“You might ask, ‘what does it matter? She is an Audience Producer. She probably advertises to all sorts of social media groups, from the far right to the far left, trying to attract people to be part of the Question Time audience’. If that were true, I would not be writing this. Fuller Pedley posted the above post on the EDL Demonstration Page and her own Timeline only. She did not advertise audience positions to any other social media groups. Why would a BBC producer be encouraging members of EDL, exclusively, to apply to be in the Question Time audience?”
Perhaps it is simply the cynical realities behind tv production? Invite an audience and pepper it with extremists, it just makes for better telly? Is that what’s going on here?
We’ve heard a lot about fake news in recent days, maybe we have fake audiences too?
Mentorn Media has produced Question Time since 1998. We approached them for a response and will update you if and when we receive one.