The BBC have finally dredged a party line to reply to the outcry about the extraordinarily unrepresentative audience for BBC Question Time from Dundee, which included two ex Labour candidates granted questions and an astonishing number of English accents. The BBC’s extraordinary defence is that the selection was predicated on finding a 50-50 balance of remain and leave voters because of the EU referendum.
The BBC reply reads
“Thank you for contacting us about Question Time held in Dundee on 10th March 2016.
We gather some viewers were concerned that the audience was not representative of Dundee and that therefore the discussion was biased.
The programme, as with all editions of Question Time, was open to people from surrounding areas as well as those living in the city where it took place. We do aim for a wide variety of views on different subjects to be heard on Question Time. The audience included SNP, Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats, Greens, UKIP and Scottish Socialist Party voters, reflecting political opinion across Scotland. On the question of the EU referendum the audience was balanced with equal numbers of ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ supporters and a fewer number of undecided people. The BBC is obliged to cover the debate around Europe in a balanced and impartial way at this time.
There was plenty of applause for all sides in the debate. Whoever speaks from the Question Time audience is down to the dynamic on the night; who puts their hands up, who claps loudest and so on.
This means that though the audience was balanced; viewers may have felt that those asking questions represented the view of the complete audience. This is not the case, but we appreciate you contacting us with your concern in this matter. ”
The only problem with this explanation is that it is totally different from the approach taken to the Independence referendum debates. There the broadcasters flatly refused to have a 50/50 audience and instead chose the audience according to how Scotland voted at the 2010 Westminster Election. That meant only 19.9% were SNP supporters and audiences were overwhelmingly unionist. Yet the next referendum comes along, and there is a completely different criterion for studio audience selection.
Of course we all know why the BBC does not wish to be consistent and now select by 2015 Westminster election vote… The tendentiousness of the BBC is unlimited.