BBC accused of ‘betraying every one of us who defended them’ as revelations further question its impartiality

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Brian Finlay

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know the BBC‘s flagship political programme Question Time has came under fire of late. Renewed criticism of the show came after ex-UKIP candidate Billy Mitchell appeared in the audience for the fourth time.

On February 13, Scotland’s pro-independence newspaper the National started a front-page campaign to get answers. But the BBC‘s response has cast doubt over its impartiality:


Just seven seconds

Yes, you did read that correctly. The BBC edited SNP MSP Fiona Hyslop’s response to a question about Scottish independence to just seven seconds. The show’s producers made the decision to cut the full response before the show went out.

As reported in the National, Mitchell was given over a minute to rant about his dislike for Scottish independence and the SNP in general. He concluded his comments with, “You’re losers. You need to get voted out and leave Scotland to prosper”. But Hyslop’s response was obviously edited, finishing mid-sentence:

 I appreciate your point. A slight exaggeration. We had a white paper, whether you liked it or not, there were 600 pages of it–

The camera then cut to the audience and presenter Fiona Bruce swiftly moved on to the next question.

John Nicolson – a former BBC and ITV anchor and SNP MP from 2015 to 2017 – hit the nail on the head:

Legal reasons

The BBC also revealed why Hyslop’s response was edited. When the SNP MSP was responding to Mitchell, he began shouting over Hyslop and referring to allegations made against the former first minister of Scotland Alex Salmond. Due to court restrictions around the live case, the BBC was unable to broadcast Hyslop’s response in full.

But the BBC could and should have clarified this when the programme went out. In a recent poll, half of the Herald readers stated they now refuse to watch Question Time. It is little wonder with behaviour like this.

“What a disgrace they are”

Wait, there’s more. As reported in the Times on 12 February, Mitchell claimed he was invited onto the show in Motherwell because the “area strongly supported the SNP”. The ex-UKIP candidate and loyalist also said the BBC gives him “offers for tickets all the time”.

Mitchell further explained why he ended up on Question Time so much. He had applied for both Stirling programmes in 2013 and 2016 but claimed he’d “sneaked in” to the Kilmarnock show in 2017. He received an email to attend a pilot of BBC Scotland’s new Question Time style show Debate Night – which took place on 6 February. After receiving the invite, Mitchell called the producers who asked Mitchell to attend the show in Motherwell during that phone call with limited screening. Mitchell told the producers who he voted for but claims he didn’t have to go into to detail as they already had his preferences on file.

As the Times reported, the BBC responded by saying:

We want to allow as many people as possible the chance to be part of the programme so we would not normally allocate a seat to someone if they had appeared recently. There is a detailed application process.

Viewers have concerns

After Question Time recently incorrectly stated Labour was behind in the polls, and Bruce allegedly made derogatory comments about Diane Abbott, it is understandable that viewers have concerns. But these recent revelations show that the BBC and Question Time might not be as impartial as they’re making out. Taxpayers deserve answers. And TV license holders deserve balanced political commentary and analysis.

Featured image via: Tim Loudon/Flickr

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