TV Nation media coverage of our political and social life is important, particularly a week before a Holyrood by-election. It’s clear failing us all.

Question Time tonight will be in Edinburgh in front of an audience of 16 and 17 year olds. Before them will be a panel comprising Nigel Farage (UKIP), George Galloway (MP for Himself), Anas Sarwar (Labour), Ruth Davidson (Tory), Lesley Riddoch, and Angus Robertson (SNP)

So one pro-indy politician, and four Unionists. What a disgraceful manipulation by our national broadcaster.

You don’t have to be a supporter of sovereignty for Scotland to be against this level of media imbalance.

James Mackenzie has written:

Five parties are represented at Holyrood, and all five are standing in Aberdeen Donside, but there’s no Green on the panel. Instead we will have to tolerate both Nigel Farage and George Galloway again. Neither of them represent Scottish constituencies, and neither UKIP nor Respect have any elected representatives in Scotland. Both oppose Scottish independence, too. So, rather than a three-to-two balance in favour of the status quo, which would have been the politicians’ split if BBCQT even noticed actual Holyrood election results when considering balance, we’ll see a four-to-one split against, with just Angus Robertson the only politician speaking up for Scottish self-determination.

This is clearly wrong on a number of levels. But this isn’t just a bad thing for young people, or for fairness in Scottish politics, it’s an imbalance at a UK level too. During the period December 2008 to November 2012 there were 704 panel slots on Question Time and none had more appearances above Nigel Farage than Vince Cable. What’s going on? What are the BBC’s criteria? The most generous analysis would suggest that this is a tabloidisation of broadcasting, the least generous that this is about political shit-stirring.

There’s also clear evidence that  exposure to racist anti-immigrant views accelerates and amplifies these views. The BBC has gone against it’s own charter and is dabbling in a game of dangerous populist dog-whistle politics.

Labour MEP for London Mary Honeyball has written:

Question Time is the most-watched political programme in Britain, its political make-up is vitally important. An appearance on the panel establishes you as a commentator or as a politician/political party of serious standing. You become part of the BBC’s construction of ‘official Britain’, of the country’s image it contrives to reflect. In short, the individual and political party represented on Question Time gains credibility in a way it would be difficult to achieve otherwise.

Farage’s frequent appearances cannot be explained by electoral success. UKIP is not a party with mass support, or indeed much support at all. Votes cast and seats won are, ultimately, the only sensible test for political parties.

It’s time for real action against this propaganda. See the Green Party’s complaint to the editor here:

“George Galloway is an MP for an English constituency representing a political party, Respect, which literally does not exist in Scotland, and contests no elections. On the one occasion when they did, Mr Galloway stood for election in Glasgow and even in a PR election was only able to secure 3.3% of the vote.”

But the complaints should come as a point of principle from all political parties. If they prove unable to control or force balance on the broadcaster then the public will need to act.

This is the press statement the Radical Independence Campaign has put out regarding our protest against Nigel Farage’s return to Edinburgh to join the Question Time panel on Thursday evening.
Radical Independence activist: “Edinburgh Question Time panel is not a fair reflection of the independence debate in Scotland”

The Radical Independence Campaign (Edinburgh) have called for a protest and lobby of tonight’s BBC Question Time to oppose the visit of Nigel Farage and the appalling bias of tonight’s panel on the TV show.

It is Farage’s first appearance north of the border since he faced humiliating protests on his last visit to the Scottish capital, when the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) and other protesters made it clear his racist politics aren’t welcome in Scotland.

RIC have organised another protest as we believe Nigel Farage and George Galloway’s presence on the Question Time panel in Edinburgh shows the producers of BBC Question Time are out of touch with Scottish public opinion. By inviting 6 guests, 4 who are pro-union, 1 pro-independence and 1 non-aligned, it is obvious that they have not organised a fair and balanced debate.

Liam O’Hare, a spokesperson for RIC Edinburgh, said:

Neither Farage nor Galloway represent Scottish constituencies, and neither UKIP nor Respect have any elected representatives in Scotland. Their invitation to participate in Edinburgh Question Time ahead of other elected figures is tantamount to media bias. Nigel Farage is a bigot and a racist, and his views are not welcome in Scotland; a fact that has been consistently stated by the Scottish electorate..

“Why has the BBC invited Farage and Galloway to participate in the question time debate and not Patrick Harvie? It is clear that the BBC is prioritizing shock jock punditry ahead of facilitating a meaningful debate on the future of Scotland. This is being billed as an ‘independence special’ and should therefore reflect the debate properly. Now more than ever we need a real debate on what independence will mean for ordinary people – instead we are given cheap TV lacking in substance. It is shameful and RIC will be lobbying the BBC tonight to say as much.”

See more here.

Comments (28)

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  1. Gerry Loose says:

    You seem to be ignoring Lesley Riddoch in this . . .

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      I’m not ignoring her at all Gerry, she’s determinedly non-aligned

    2. Lesley Riddoch is largely neutral although she tends to lean towards the devo-max/maybe independence side largely because she’s a greenish lefty.

      The focus is on the politicians because they all have firmly nailed their colours to the mast. It is traditional to have one non-politician on and Lesley Riddoch is a good neutral (As neutral as normal people can be) choice. The choice of politicians is not.

  2. Donald MacDonald says:

    She’s the non-aligned mentioned above, surely? Being Lesley, she’s fair, but certainly not pro-indy,

  3. Doug Daniel says:

    Well, I’ve found myself watching Question Time less and less regularly of late, as it seems to be little more than Slag Off Immigrants & Welfare Recipients Hour these days; but I would ordinarily tune in for an edition held in Scotland, if only to witness how badly skewed it is.

    However, tonight I shall be making a point of not watching it. If it’s viewing figures they want, then I’m not going to help them out in that regard.

    By the time we get to the referendum, I think we’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who gives a shit about the possibility of losing the BBC. It can’t come quick enough, really!

  4. bellacaledonia says:

    Good point Dougie it does undermine the whole “You won’t be able to watch Eastenders” point that is often raised. In dragging down the quality of the national broadcaster they are making it easier to discard.

  5. hector macglumpherty says:

    A good place to start is to find out if the BBC actually picks the guests at all. It’s not made by them it’s made for them by a company that’s ultimately controlled by a small group of venture capitalists. This could mean it doesn’t need to follow it’s own guidelines. Either that or it’s the usual breaking of rules without a care in the world.
    The BBC’s never been impartial really , has it?

    1. Albalha says:

      Well the Editor N Gentchev and Executive Editor for the BBC H Valentine are BBC employees. Mentorn, the external company also has an Executive Editor. So probably shared team Editorial decisions including DD input. However the BBC will have final say re imbalance etc, it can always be called in higher up the BBC food chain.

  6. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    It is a measure of the irrelevance of the Beeb to Scottish life that we can’t be arsed even to storm the place. Hope the audience, if not selected by the same weighted criteria, give Farage another Scottish welcome.

  7. Albalha says:

    In addition to the above it’s also about ratings, it’s now seen as an entertainment programme. When Griffin was on the average viewing figures increased threefold.

    Of course why it’s acceptable from, a ‘fair, balanced and impartial’ view is way beyond me, I speak as a former BBC London/Glasgow based Editor.

    Mentorn, and their parent company, will of course be loving the coverage, maybe they’ll become an even larger supplier to the BBC, currently sixth in terms of hours.

  8. ‘Shock Jock Punditry’ . . . indeed 😉

  9. Floako says:

    Clearly, theres no such thing as bad publicity in Showbusiness.
    They must have had a meeting thinking “How can we make a Scottish Programme interesting to rUK…get Farage aka RatingsMan”. Ranting Man more like especially with yesterdays man George ‘Oil be Back’ Galloway. It sums up the Unionist campaign, old, backward-looking and just embarrassing more and more each day. It will be Scotland Tonight for me thanks

  10. mikew9 says:

    BBCQT has become the “Top Gear” of politics. It is politics for the person with no real interest in politics.

    This has nothing to do with Scotland and has everything to do with putting on some entertainment for the folk down South who aren’t interested in a debate on Independence. It’s just a wee break while the BBC pretend to be inclusive. It will be back to the ‘real politics’ next week where we can see a debate about a bypass for Nowhere-on-the-Wold and watch middle-englanders blame immigrants for everything. …and maybe an exploding caravan or two.

  11. It would be a huge boost to the perceived dignity of Scottish Youth if the entire studio audience boycotted this planned puerile bunfight between two narcissistic nut-jobs.

  12. DougtheDug says:

    “What a disgraceful manipulation by our national broadcaster.”

    Two things wrong here. It’s not our national broadcaster it’s the UK national broadcaster which to all intents and purposes is the English national broadcaster.

    It’s also not manipulation. This is an entertainment show broadcast to the UK where the audience is 83% English or alternatively 91.6% non-Scottish. Neither the show nor this episode of the show is for us, it’s for that mainly English audience.

    The BBC aren’t interested in the fine points of the independence argument as they consider that over 90% of their audience will switch off both figuratively and literally if that’s what they broadcast.

    What they want are panellists who are recognizable to an English audience and who will make points and argue from a standpoint which their English audience will understand.

    That’s why their ratings darlings of Farage and Galloway are on because nobody in England, Wales or NI will have a clue who Riddoch, Robertson, Sarwar or Davidson are. They’re just there for the Jocks because the show’s in Scotland.

    If this show was moved to Light Entertainment in the BBC where it belongs everything would be much clearer.

    1. Albalha says:

      Agreed for normal programming but this below is from the QT website, it’s not a standard programme. I agree, as I said above, it’s an entertainment programme but they need to be called on it when they try to have their cake, eat it, and have swirly cream on top.

      FROM QT
      David Dimbleby presents Question Time from Edinburgh, with an audience of 16 and 17-year-olds. The 2014 referendum on Scottish independence will be the first time anyone under 18 has had a vote in the UK.

    2. bellacaledonia says:

      Point taken, though of course they are the ‘National’ broadcaster in that we are required to fund them. We subsidise propaganda against us. It’s a beautiful model.

  13. scepticalbutopen says:

    I must admit I rarely watch Question Time, unless (as I see it) at least one or two of those on the panel are people who frequently demonstrate a “generosity of spirit” and/or courage, people not given to spouting tribal, binary, simplistic, populist guff.

    I’m highly unlikely to turn to QT this evening.

    From my perspective, there is no shortage of people supporting independence who come across as convinced that there is “one truth” and that they have a monopoly of it… people who believe that “with one wave of the wand” – such as Scotland becoming independent – the future is bound to be golden. The strongest impression that some such people give (me, at least) is of contempt for other people (“unionists”, England, etc).

    Nigel Farage reminds me of them in many ways (except that, for him, it appears that leaving the EU is the answer to most of the problems). I am profoundly ill at ease with zenophobia, whether of Farage’s variety or that of (some!) outspoken advocates of independence for Scotland.

    There is no suggestion, by the way, that partisan drivel which is an insult to the intelligence is confined to the pro-independence side in Scotland. Very far from it…

  14. AL says:

    Question Time is not about politics. It is about making TV. It has been since Robin Day presented.

    Stop watching it.

    Stop taking it seriously.

    Stop thinking of it as an essential part of democracy.

    Stop accepting the panelists as commentators and the political parties on if as official.

    Ignore it.

    Refuse to engage with it.

    Do not accept it as anything other than TV.

    As manipulated and geared towards water cooler moments as the xfactor or the only was is essex.

    Do not give it credibility by wanting to be on it. You’re better than that.

    If we, as an audience, accept this shit now then it’s just going to the same when independence comes.

  15. RObert Martin says:

    Totally agree. My formal complaint to BBC is already lodged. It takes 21 similar complaints for it to be considered seriously. Hope there are more complainants

  16. Andrew says:

    So who’s up for organising a public burning of TV licenses? If you buy goods from a shop that are found to be defective, you’re entitled to a refund or replacement. While a foreign government with no mandate determines who gets to transmit as a national broadcaster there’s surely an argument to be made that the state (.ie. publicly-funded) broadcaster is a monopoly business and that some of those public funds should be apportioned to a regional, publicly-funded broadcaster.

  17. bellacaledonia says:

    Dimbleby insisted #bbcqt “doesn’t follow byelections, never has” ? But @bbcquestiontime did Eastleigh byelection special

  18. douglas clark says:

    I thought AR and LR did very well. NF didn’t make a worthwhile point and while GG’s rhetoric is fierce, 24 hours later, I realise it was content free.

    I’d score it a win for us and a loss for them.

    1. scepticalbutopen says:

      When, Douglas, you say that you’d score this “a win for us and a loss for them” do you mean that all true Scots should be absolutely outraged that this panel was allowed? Or that it was good that the programme went ahead because the presence on the panel of NF and GG did nothing to diminish the case for independence?

      It would be interesting to hear more from those who were screaming that part of the problem was the inclusion of the determinedly “non aligned” Lesley Riddoch. Has truth (she’ll vote Yes) got in the way of their good story?

      1. douglas clark says:

        About your first para, the latter rather than the former. I thought that LR was the star of the show. I can sympathise with the path she has gone down, she apparently had high hopes for devo max at one time. But if you want a Scandanavian style social democracy, which she does – and I share that aspiration for us all – there is absolutely no chance of it with the current settlement.

        Our independence would truly give us the chance to work in the early days of a better nation. I see independence as a starting off point, not an end point.

  19. Clydebuilt says:

    The BBC and other media are giving Farage undue coverage. They’re hoping this will increase anti euro sentiments in Scotland, minimising the gap that’s opening up between England and Scotland over Europe.

    The SNP want to keep Scotland in Europe, Labour are having to follow the Tories on Europe as English politics move to the right to counter Farage’s UKIP

  20. Craig P says:

    Quick point re viewing figures Doug (or anyone interested), you won’t be boosting their figures unless you are on the roughly 5,000 people across the UK who are on the BARB panel…

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