Welcome To Zelo Street!

This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Saturday 19 January 2019

Question Time Criticism Won’t Go Away

Most of the time, the BBC gets it right, and so for most of the time, no-one criticises the Corporation. The problem comes when the Beeb, or a company producing programmes on its behalf, gets it wrong. All too often, the response to criticism - defensive and dismissive in turns - only serves to make matters worse. So it has been with last week’s edition of Question Time, and the treatment by host and audience of Labour’s Diane Abbott.
Fiona Bruce - got her facts wrong more than once

As I pointed out yesterday, not only did host Fiona Bruce peddle falsehood and misinformation in endorsing the claims of mercenary hack Isabel Oakeshott that Labour was “way behind in the polls”, she also made the false claim that there were questions about “both sides” in the referendum campaign. There aren’t.

Worse, there was a failure to tell the audience that Ms Oakeshott was a paid lobbyist, a water carrier for offshore billionaire Michael Ashcroft for whom a No Deal Brexit would be most helpful. She duly endorsed it. On top of that are a series of allegations about the treatment of Ms Abbott before and during the show.

The BBC’s response on treatment of panellists was abrupt, and yes, defensive: “We firmly reject claims that any of the Question Time team treated any of the panel unfairly before and during the recording last night”. But some who were in the audience claim otherwise. And now Ms Abbott’s team has waded into the controversy.
Diane Abbott - not happy at her treatment

As the Guardian has now reported, “Diane Abbott has accused BBC Question Time of legitimising racist abuse after claims that the shadow home secretary was singled out before and during Thursday night’s episode of the political discussion programme. The Labour politician claimed she had been unfairly mocked in the warm-up and had been interrupted more often than other panellists by Fiona Bruce, the programme’s new chair”.

The Beeb has not exactly been reassuring in its response: “We are sorry to hear Diane Abbott’s concerns over last night’s edition of Question Time and we have contacted her team today to reassure them that reports circulating on social media are inaccurate and misleading”. Reassure them as to what? To claim that what actually happened before and during the broadcast has been reinvented in the retelling?
Time for Lord Hall-Hall to intervene?

Even the Daily Mail has weighed in, correctly observingIn one combative exchange during the programme the shadow home secretary hit back at incorrect claims that Labour was struggling in the polls … Isabel Oakeshott said Labour was 'miles behind' the Conservatives in the polls, saying it was a 'damning indictment' of party leader Jeremy Corbyn … The two parties have been neck-and-neck in recent polls”.

Added to that, Ms Abbott’s team has noted “Analysis of the programme shows that the only black woman on the panel was jeered at and interrupted more times than any other panellist, including by the chair herself”. The proven falsehood and misinformation is not being addressed. The mistreatment of one panellist is not being addressed. The host’s lack of knowledge is not being addressed. And the critics aren’t for quitting just yet.

The BBC cannot get away with playing the combination of rabbit in the headlights and snooty dismissiveness this time. Question Time is only two shows into a new run and it is already in big trouble. Doing nothing is not an option.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at


Anonymous said...

This is for the most part a very good article, however, your assertion in the very first sentence "Most of the time the BBC gets it right, and so for most of the time, no-one criticises the Corporation." This is a ridiculous statement to make! For most of the time and increasingly in recent times, the Corporation gets it wrong and is constantly criticised for it's pro-Tory and establishment bias and anti Jeremy Corbyn agenda, receiving endless complaints. This latest Diane Abbott incident is just one of countless others. The BBC no longer even attempts to disguise their bias.

I'm amazed you'd make that statement Tim. I admire your work but you appear to have a blindspot regarding the BBC.

Anonymous said...

Complaining to the BBC does nothing. We need to boycott it

Anonymous said...

Important to separate out BBC "News and politics" from its other broadcast stuff.

By and large its non-news and politics production values are excellent. Though even that is too often open to question.

But its "news and politics" are morally corrupt and dishonest right wing muck fronted by pathetic Yes Men and Women. Scarcely different from the rotten-to-the-core Murdoch/Rothermere axis.

One of the more ludicrous products is "Newswatch", a bullshit cringeworthy attempt to pretend the BBC "listens to the public". Whereas its real intent is to kick dissent into the long grass of a dead brained right wing bureaucracy.

The BBC's political agenda shames us all.

Nigel Stapley said...

In the same way that Last Of The Summer Wine stopped being funny twenty years or more before it was finally sent to the TV knacker's yard, QT stopped being in any way relevant to real politics a long time ago.

(There was a joke that, if one of the US networks had been in charge of World War II, it would have been taken off after six weeks, whereas if the BBC had been running it, it would still have been going in 1967)

I agree with Anonymous @12:50; the news & current affairs section of the BBC needs to be disbanded, disinfected and re-stocked with real journalists (with no agenda other than - as the old saying goes - to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted) and kept well away from the right-wing partiality and ingrained cowardice which has afflicted it ever since the Hutton inquiry.

di allen said...

So disappointed in Fiona Bruce. She has clearly demonstrated she is no advocate for women’s rights, anti-racism or the telling of the truth! Shame on you, Fiona, you’re just another BBC puppet!
There should be a mass refusal to pay T.V licenses until the BBC revert to being impartial rather than the spokespersons for the government and national newspapers

Whurr said...

... but the BBC is full of lefties according to readers' comments on local newspapers.

wizzwazz said...

The claim of ‘racism’ must be investigated. It would be irresponsible to do nothing...particularly in current climate, post murder of Jo Cox, etc.