BBC Question Time – Fake Audiences?

afp3The 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.

Step forward Alison Fuller Pedley job title  ‘Audience Producer at BBC Question Time’, and member of the British Patriotic Front Facebook group. She also promotes ‘Britain First’ online.

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.


She even invited the English Defence League to join the audience. As the Daily Politik wrote back in September:

LUbqBzlw.jpg-large“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.

Comments (62)

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  1. bringiton says:

    What have the Tories promised the BBC in return for ensuring social “cohesion” and unity within the UK?

    1. k harnan says:

      i think the wallasey program was from the tory oap club or home,, as for the panel they where so right wing they nearly fell the Mersey

  2. david kelly says:

    …. and I thought it was just my own prejudices that had me screaming at the TV things like”where did they get all these Nazis in Wakefield” , now we know how they find them

  3. Mach1 says:

    A startling lapse that has produced a Brexit love in for months. The concept that our parliaments should vote down the Brexit insanity is regularly dismissed yet most people north of the border think this is the only sane course. I wonder what other organisations or individuals Fuller has been cultivating? Surely we should be told?

  4. Graeme Purves says:

    The BBC is now an unashamed cheerleader for fascism. Their reporting of the final outcome of Austria’s presidential election on the BBC1 evening news yesterday was an utter disgrace. The bulk of the report had clearly been prepared beforehand on the assumption of a Hofer victory. Their lady in Vienna appeared crestfallen and was keen to reassure us that the momentum Europe’s far right remained undiminished. Alexander Van der Bellen hardly got a mention. What he stands for got no mention at all. The BBC, like the rest of the MSM, is deeply invested in the success of the far right.

    1. Mark Rowantree says:

      I was thinking the very same myself! The BBC have played a decisive role in making Fascist views acceptable in the UK.

      1. Matt says:

        Dont know whats worse this or the invasion of Muslims?

  5. Douglas Robertson says:

    Bear in mind this is a BBC Scotland television product, commissioned from a private supplier Mentorn Media BBC Scotland does have ‘Executive Producer’ responsibilities in respect of this product to ensure it conforms to the BBC’s public broadcaster contractual requirements.

    But clearly there are serious contractual and compliance issue being raised here, if this product is required to provide a ‘representative’ audience. While the panel selection is clearly all about ‘ratings’, demanded by the ‘privatised’ BBC, rather than being about ensuring informative debate, audience selection would appear to be about public and popular distortion. So BBC Scotland clearly has to offer up an explanation for this distortion, in what has become a very peculiar political program.

    1. Simon Brooke says:

      That BBC Scotland is legally and morally responsible for what must be considered a grave breach of their own charter is a significant point and one we can surely force them to respond to.

  6. Robin Barbour says:

    Thanks for this Mike.I knew the company was Mentorn, but this adds another layer.I can’t say I am remotely surprised.

  7. James Coleman says:

    I burst out laughing when I read the job description of the Audience Producer particularly this gem:

    “As the 150 people she (the Audience Producer) selects:are intended to embody the image of their city in the eyes of the programme’s nationwide audience”.

    So why when QT is in Scotland is the audience ALWAYS full of English people bussed in from God knows where? And why is the audience ALWAYS full of UKIPPERS when they are only about 1% of voters in Scotland?

  8. Welsh Sion says:

    Previous history.

    Director along with her husband of Full House Audience Management Ltd, a company registered in Worcestershire and incorporated in June 2011. Company dissolved October 2014.

    1. Welsh Sion says:

      But only spent a year there: 2010-2011.

    2. Simon Brooke says:

      Interesting. Her Twitter profile says she’s still running it.

  9. Elaine Fraser says:

    Thanks for this – I thought it was just me .

  10. john says:

    I’d like to know how certain faces keep cropping up every time QT is in Scotland .The last time it was on the bigmouth with the orange jacket was ranting on about how baaaad the SNP was . Now that same bigmouth was doing exactly the same on the QT show in Scotland the time before that and getting plenty of time to state his bigoted facts . Don’t tell me they are not handpicked because I just won’t believe you !

  11. Graham King says:

    I would love for a member of the audience to raise this question, preferably live on air so that it can’t be edited.

    1. Tony Hendrix says:

      If you wish to be chosen for QT audience participation then tell them you are a Tory voter or UKIP, otherwise you have next to no chance of ever getting into whichever hall they hold the show.

      1. Mark Rowantree says:

        I have applied to be in the audience on about half a dozen occasions for various BBC programmes. Surprise, surprise I have never been successful!

  12. DialMforMurdo says:

    Lest we forget, someone vetted and passed this cack handed ding-a-ling to appear on QT.

  13. w.b.robertson says:

    the programme itself is on life support, only kept on air to keep a certain member of the establishment in a presenter`s job. Regarding audience selection/bias …the BBC`s number one priority (in all programming policy) is to keep a civil tongue right up the Westminster government of the day. which they do very well.

  14. Alastair McIntosh says:

    Now we know why Scotland has been discredited by the kind of person rarely to be found here. During the independence referendum I was expected to declare my leanings, which I did so that they could ensure balance. I was happy to do that in good faith, and I had no reason to think that in the contexts to which I contributed on radio and TV it was not respected by the various BBC Scotland producers with whom I worked. However, if this revelation is what meets the eye, it strikes at the heart of BBC impartiality and leaves a putrid taste.

  15. Fionnghal says:

    Saoil dè am buaidh a bh’ aig an t-seòrsa dol-a-mach sin – agus cha chuireadh e iongnadh orm nach robh e ann – o chionn dà bhliadhna air ais agus reifreann neo-eisimeileachd na h-Alba air fàire? Bha iomadh prògram pannail dhen leithid aig a’ BhBC agus an reifreann a’ tarraing dlùith agus coltas gun robh iad gu math taobhach do chòmhlachas!

    I wonder how much that kind of behaviour— and that it likely existed wouldn’t surprise me—two years back when the Indyref was on the horizon? The BBC held many such panel programmes in the run up to the referendum that appeared very biased towards our staying together!

  16. Craig P says:

    QT has been a joke for years. I wonder if the fall in standards has coincided with Alison Pedley’s time on the show?

  17. Nora B says:

    This needs a bit more digging. Before you accuse people of being extreme right-wingers are you sure this isn’t a misguided attempt by Fuller to force “balance” into the programme. Could she be hovering in that patriot group to invite more extreme opinions onto the show, to make some controversial television. Before you jump down my throat, I don’t condone that policy. It’s faulty and terrible journalism. Could she – like your mad auntie who doesn’t understand facebook– have shared (rather than the more pointed word you used “promoted”) a Britain First post without realising what it was? I’d like to know, but the proof isn’t in this article.

    1. It’s true Nora but if you were a producer for Question Time do you not think you;d know who Britain First were?

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        As an ‘Audience Producer’ isn’t it an essential part of her job to know such things?

        1. Nora B says:

          Indeed, you would expect a tv producer to be informed. (She’s an audience producer though, much more lowly). I don’t assume that people who work in telly are necessarily competent. I’m not an apologist for her. She shouldn’t be working this way. I thought the above article emphasised her “promotion” of right wing views before you checked for definite that that was what she was doing. I respect you and I expect you to check that kind of stuff before you click publish. I think a fairer accusation, though still an assumption, is that she was deliberately recruiting people with controversial views to make “good telly” of the Jeremy Kyle variety. I don’t want to watch Jeremy Kyle – I don’t want Question Time to follow that route, and it has been doing that for some time now.

          1. Jo says:

            @ Nora

            I think we can say it’s a bit more than an assumption given all we’ve seen on QT since the Brexit vote. It has deteriorated really badly and I’ve been noticing this for some time now. The atmosphere has been dreadful with booing and jeering and shouting while people were speaking.

            After reading this piece pennies were dropping all over the place for me because it would explain a great deal. If this lady is actively promoting her own political leanings by seeking out those who share them then she is involved in trying to send out a very worrying message right across the UK. If people are genuinely turning into rabid Leavers, fine, sad but fine. On the other hand, if she’s filling audiences with rabid Leavers and leaving more reasonable views out then she’s guilty of something a great deal more serious. Furthermore, the BBC, in hosting this programme has a case to answer since such behaviour is a breach of its own rules on impartiality. It has a duty to provide balance.

          2. Nigel G says:

            Her Facebook page has been heavily sanitised now but yesterday I saw her shring the Britain First “proud to wear the poppy” meme as early as 2013. Someone pointed out to her then who Britain First are, and that the British Legion have repeatedly asked BF to refrain from using the symbol. She has no excuse for sharing yet more BF memes in 2016 – especially given her role.

  18. Peter Burnett says:

    Wow Mike. I’m sorry I can’t be more eloquent about this article than that tonight, but this one might take a while to sink in . . . .

    Meantime, the questions you have asked here will be taken I hope, and asked again and again until answers are forthcoming.

  19. Mike says:

    At last an explanation for that infamous Yoon fest of a Dundee audience.

  20. c rober says:

    jist for the sake of asking has anyone contacted the relative Holyrood dept MSP to discuss this in chambers?

    I am still scunnered from round one of indy , with the lack of will to do anything by Holyrood with punishing the lying media – so I expect no change.

  21. Jo says:

    Gobsmacked here to be honest. Thanks for the info Mike.

    I’d noticed that since the Brexit vote QT had become uglier and uglier with every passing week. Last week’s show, from Wakefield, was particularly ugly with two of the male panelists, not Johnson, the other two, trying to stir up as much bad feeling as possible in the audience and succeeding. The atmosphere was toxic.

    The one who shocked me most was the school-teacher complaining about parents collecting children and speaking in foreign languages in the playground and how this was “upsetting other parents”. His rant was pretty shocking, especially for a school teacher and I sincerely hope someone’s had a word with him since as he came over as very racist indeed.

    On this lady who chooses the audience, how on earth can she even be in such a job when her own political views are so extreme? What is the BBC thinking by allowing such a thing when it is a clear breach of their own code of conduct?

    Impressions from QT since the vote in June are that England is now a hot-bed of raging Brexiteers on the rampage. If audiences are being set up along the lines suggested can it be that this impression is completely false and QT is being used to send out a false message? That’s very serious to say the least.

    Robust debate is a very good thing but seeing QT, show after show, being reduced to jeering and booing post-the Brexit vote has been depressing indeed.

    My other observations from Thursday’s show were that both Alan Johnson and Ruth Davidson were worse than useless and that Laurie Penny was very brave indeed to stand up to an audience intent on savaging her thanks to the two rabid Brexiteers on the panel who were urging them on. Depressing stuff indeed and with this Fuller woman, apparently, keen to deliver more of this it can only get worse.

    Is there no way the BBC can be challenged as well as the company that produces QT, Mike? After all, it goes out on the BBC and the BBC is meant to follow a particular code. Clearly that code has been set aside.

    1. Elaine Fraser says:

      Ive watched QT for a long time and I couldn’t agree more .There has definitely been a noticeable change in tone from audience and the Chair no longer seems to care for fairness or balance especially since Brexit . The primary teacher last week was a total disgrace. It felt like mob rule with a loaded panel. As usual Ruth , the whole Ruth and nothing but the Ruth was given an easy time.

  22. David G says:

    Like many I never watch a whole QT now.
    It simply fails to reflect the divergent politics of Scotland vs rUK and in doing so remains consistent to much of BBC output.
    Surely an opportunity for someone to produce a decent weekly discussion programme for Scotland?
    MSM squeezes daily debate into either the woeful Call Kaye or five mins on STV’s Scotland Tonight. Weekends are news free for MSM TV in Scotland but have something on Sunday that I avoid.

    Not a great deal for a country of 5 million people.

  23. Iain says:

    In 2009 someone made an FOI request for information about the criteria used to select audience members:

    The BBC refused it.

  24. Richard Barnes says:

    Thanks always thought this great to read I am not alone think that shows is rigged. Disgusted how easily they can manipulate and distort .

  25. Alf Baird says:

    Hello! This is the British State we are talking about here! Does anybody in Scotland really expect any different? The Dundee QT audience was a classic, not a Dundee accent tae be haurd (how absurd! how censored!); it was as if they had bused in a bunch of English academics from St. Andrews Uni. This article’s a good reminder nevertheless that the unionist/Anglicised elites still head up institutional Scotland, everything from BBC-Scot to the civil service, police, justice, universities, myriad quangos, NHS, local authorities, even Holyrood itself, and all told several hundred public organisations. The enemy is within, and rather a typical colonial predicament.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      “Drain the Swamp!” …whatever that means.

    2. Willie says:

      The enemy is indeed with. It is promoted, cultivated and supported. That is how you keep the colony in line. The Plantation of Scotland is real, very real.

      1. c rober says:

        Better watch oot there wullie , yer sounding a bit like a cyber nat facist no wanting yer yoon mesters as yer boss – like the rest of the Scots you should be kneeling before them greatful for the table exports that you fight the dug for.

        Mibbe wan day oor wee bella will dae whit the media avoids and dae a piece on the demographics of whom is running the show in Scotland? You know like a Times rich list , or just liek the who owns Scotland piece , but instead who runs it.

        I know that there is areas in Scotland where ye kin hardly hear a Scots accent in the workplace , and its naw eastern europeans taking up those middle managers and directors jobs , nor is it immigrants from outside the Uk.

        I think we would find its not hornets or bees , but the other wans.

  26. Donald Kilgour says:

    I remember it back in the 70’s when it was all balanced opinion and polite applause. Any level of contention whether real or manipulated will mar programmes of this ilk and stature. What’s missing is civility and understanding from both sides of the camera lens.

  27. John Page says:

    Two suggestions:
    1. Stop watching television full stop.
    2. Can we crowdfund say, Kavanagh, Bateman, MacWhirter, Riddoch, Wightman and Small to produce the case (a real vision, not managerialist hedge betting) for Indy2 in a 6 page leaflet and a 15 minute video……..both to be distributed by Yes groups.
    John Page

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Interesting idea John, to which you might add Robin McAlpine and Tommy Sheridan to your suggestions for enlightenment and vision.

      Scotland’s choices are rapidly narrowing down to two options: hard-brexit or hard-indy. Tak yer pik! The centre ground has disappeared down a sinkhole, consumed by its troughing and self-serving.

      1. John Page says:

        Thanks, Alf
        The fact is TS is a total turn off for a large number of people.
        And personally I find RM’s didactic approach and garrulousness a real pain.
        I purposely did not mention S Campbell because (despite his investigative effectiveness) he is too ascerbic to appeal to previous No voters.
        What would I know……only that it would be good to have an intelligent case for Indy separate from and in addition too that from the SNP
        John Page

      2. Nice idea John – we’ve been working with Phantom Power on his new series, Perspective, not far off what you’re calling for. More details soon.

        1. John Page says:

          Great stuff, Bella

  28. Welsh Sion says:

    Just to share with you my personal involvement with QT.

    When QT came to Luton (about 3 miles down the road and the HQ of the English Defence League), I applied via their on-line form to join as a Member of the audience. I was in a bit of a quandary as to how to answer the question of “Which political party do you support?” in their questionnaire being a Member of both SNP AND Plaid Cymru – I expect under “Other” you can align yourself with Combat 18, BF and other stuff. Anyway, I plumped for SNP and was surprised to be selected.

    You are then requested by phone to select TWO questions (of a limited word length and of “contemporary importance”) you’d like to ask the panel and to ring those with you to the programme. You are then fed canapes and drinks and you register with some woman (this Alison person?) who takes your written questions from you and tells you that Dimblebore will select the questions to be asked, later that evening.

    Dimblebore then begins the warm up himself by performing like a stand-up comedian (an unfunny one) as you sip your wine and nibble your vol-au-vents. He disappears and the audience is herded onto the seating area (rather uncomfortable). A few lucky ones in the audience are chosen as a “mock panel” and questioners are chosen by the Chair (Dimblebore) so we get to understand what the procedure is like. And then the real panel is seated and we get under way.

    Dimblebore chairs, picks out people to ask questions or make statements and the politicos do their stuff. Neither of my two questions (both fulfilling the word length and contemporary criteria) are used. Quelle surprise … altho. I guess you could so any accusation of bias is “Not Proven.” That said, it would have been, ahem … interesting, would it not to have heard from an SNP voice in Bedfordshire, England? 🙂 Similarly, it would be easy enough to tip the wink to those operating the mikes and cameras to focus on probably the only SNP/Plaid Cymru Member in that audience so as to provide … ahem … “a different perspective.”

    But obviously they didn’t. No sour grapes, though. Just reminds me of a similar situation at SNP Conference where the BBC refused to ask my opinion on Scottish independence, as a Welsh voice was “not relevant to the debate.” (You can ask for confirmation of this story by a sitting SNP MP who was also present.) As I said – no sour grapes. Just par for the course, really. And you do all recall the appearance of “Orange Tango Man” on QT recently who was given quite a bit of airtime to vent his grievances … and what was that about minibuses in the Stirling area on the day of broadcast bearing English number plates … ?

    1. Welsh Sion says:

      Oh and this Menthorn group who store your details for the programme, keep your details for over three years. (You have to click to agree to this in the small print when you apply.)

  29. BP says:

    You’d be hard pushed to prove a bias in audience selection but there’s a chain of selection events which would lead to the BBC building an audience with “manufactured consent”. Those are:

    1. Where does the advertisement for audience members live? If it’s to be found only on the BBC’s website or related affiliates then only BBC website readers are likely to apply. Perhaps it’s posted at the QT venue which, if that’s true, would reach only a bubble of people who visit that particular college in Oxford.

    2. Audience members are likely to be QT viewers. Again, we’ve excluded people outside of the media/political bubble of the BBC.

    3. Audience members are encouraged to write questions after watching only three news programmes (BBC 6pm news, ITV news and Channel 4 news). That doesn’t represent a plurality of news sources or a broad world view.

    4. Finally, there is an editorial team that will choose which questions are to be read on air. The editorial team must use questions that are contemporary and befitting to the panel’s expertise.

    I fear that all of this leads to a self-fulfilling diet of media people writing questions that media people will approve of. That’s how the editorial bias works.

    There’s another layer of bias. This emerges from the need to make “good telly”. Participants and panelists will be recruited, in part, based on their entertainment value. Gobby and opinionated people will prevail.

  30. john says: A slap on the wrist ? she should be fired ! , but I’m sure the BBC won’t do that !

    1. Jo says:

      @ John

      Thanks for sharing that post John.

      I agree with you that the BBC response is woefully inadequate. While I wouldn’t go so far as to sack this woman I would say she should certainly not be doing the job she currently does in selecting audiences for QT.

      “The Question Time audience is always chosen by a team to ensure broad political balance and each application goes through the same rigorous background checks. Any suggestion to the contrary is misleading.”

      This quote from the BBC is patently wrong given that the woman at the centre of the uproar does NOT ensure political balance – rather the opposite – and so the BBC is ducking its responsibility here to ensure its own code is adhered to. I hope pressure will continue to be brought on the BBC to remove her from this post. She clearly isn’t fit for that job and her excuses that she posted “unwittingly” are, frankly, an insult to our intelligence. We have seen for ourselves in recent months what she’s been trying to do.

  31. kevin bates says:

    Its not just scotland.
    I remember they got caught bringing two bus loads with them from England to a welsh QT.
    This was just over half of the audience.
    Watch any QT in wales and it is very rare to hear a welsh accent.
    Everyone seems to be against powers for wales and the welsh language but every poll ever taken shows the vast majority of welsh people support devolution and the welsh language.
    For years the BBC have been giving you a false impression of Wales and its people.
    The sad fact is most indy supporters seem to take it as fact and spread the crap.

    I remember during indy ref welsh papers had a headline ‘huge majority in wales want scotland to stay’ they didn’t tell you that only 99 people were asked as part of a uk wide poll.

    They also do an annual st Davids day poll wich asks about independence along with 6 other options.
    they then lead with headlines of something like ‘record low back welsh independence’ .
    They ignore any yes/no polls wich show support to be much higher. even though the debate hasn’t even started in wales its sitting at about 27%. There is no chance the BBC will tell you that though.

  32. Cameron Bruce says:

    I was ashamed by the way the quests behaved on the show they could not give a straight answer re the supposed election Scotland should now have another referendum and go alone & let England get on with it if mr Farage & co are leavers why are they still meps and taking money from the EU they are hypocrites

  33. kenneth davison says:

    You talk about a world you would just never live in, I must be in a different world too, to me the BBC is massively leftie!!?

    1. Riddly says:

      Since the national Broadcaster is run by a major Tory donor, and for some time now has had its news output produced by people who end up working for the party… Remember Robbie Gibb, who was the BBC’s head of operations at Westminster and editor of the important Daily Politics TV show, joined the pantheon of BBC executives who ditched their media careers to fulfil their true ambitions in the Conservative party?

      Either you aren’t watching carefully, or your politics are to the right of the AfD or the New Flemish Alliance?

  34. Helen Yates says:

    My sister and I applied to be in the audience of BBCQT in Dundee in the run up to the 2014 ref, when they phoned us to find out where we stood politically we pretended to be in the don’t know category and said we weren’t members of any party, everyone had to hand in two questions they would like to ask, we knew our questions were good because we asked Wings to choose them for us, anyway they decided to have a dummy run of the show just so we knew how it was done and to settle us in, so the panel was picked from the audience members then everyone was seated, so members of the audience were asking questions of the ‘panel’ this lasted as long as the real show as we had been told to arrive almost two hours before the show was due to start. so they knew from that dummy run exactly where everyone in the audience stood with their political views, there were quite a few really good speakers there that night and great questions, needless to say none of them were picked during the live show to either ask a question or to have their questions picked that we had all put in. it’s very cleverly done. as expected our questions weren’t accepted either.

  35. Caz Appleby says:

    The QT with Jeremy Corbyn they bussed down a load of Scots who wouldn’t let him talk about anything but Scottish independence.
    The show was recorded in Sheffield.
    Hardly any of the people allowed to ask questions had an accent from Northern England, let alone Sheffield.
    It was obvious that the whole audience were plants.
    The locals were stood outside in the cold, singing:
    “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn”.

  36. Riddly says:

    In Scotland their audience pool seems to be very limited? One poor woman, who seems to hate the SNP, and thinks that Independence would result in armageddon, has been forced to appear and comment six times?
    Not forgetting the unfortunate man in the orange jacket- four time now he’s had to ask a key question.

    Its not fair on them.

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