I see Mark Thompson has beaten me to it posting about the BBC's response to the complaints about the recent removal at the last minute of Jo Swinson from a Question Time panel in Edinburgh. However, that befits a man who shares his name with the Director General. Like Mark I'd raised the issue that the Lib Dems were the most differing opinion on the war of Iraq a big story of that week, on top of that I mentioned a couple of the more Scottish-centric issues that also popped up that week, I'm not sure if Mark mentioned those in his complaint, but I did.
Yet we both got the same response.
Thank you for your e-mail regarding 'Question Time'.
We forwarded concerns on this issue to 'Question Time' Executive Editor Gavin Allen who explained that we constantly monitor the balance of the panel and that in light of their national electoral strength, the level of representation for the Liberal Democrats on the programme remains very strong.
He added that on this occasion the panel was rearranged to reflect a change in the prominence of some of the issues due to be discussed on the programme and in order to facilitate debate by having representatives willing to question the central political consensus on these issues, of which the Liberal Democrats are a part.
He also added that:
"It was regrettable - but necessary - that the decision to replace Jo Swinson was taken relatively late, but we have to keep a constant editorial eye out for the best possible panel and this can of course mean last-minute alterations. To ensure the widest range of political views are heard there are occasions across the series when nationalists or minority parties are invited onto the panel".
We'd like to assure you that we've registered your complaint on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that's circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.
The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.
Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.
I've highlighted a few of the issues that we of my own concern, issues that didn't answer the issues I raised.. One of mine was that while Nicola Sturgeon was on that show there wasn't a single other Scottish based member of the panel. I have, as I pointed out in my original complaint no qualms about the SNP appearing on Question Time. What I did raise that on a Question Time with a Scottish audience they removed the only other Scottish representation from the panel.
The prominence of the issues to be discussed. How they could know these 24 hours before the audience turned up to ask their questions is beyond be, however, I was far better at guessing these than the BBC editorial team seemed to be. Yes there was going to be the Iraq war enquiry and no the Lib Dems never have been part of the central political consensus on that issue. There were also Questions on:
- Jim Murphy's White paper delaying more powers to Scotland to the next Parliament
- the SNP alcohol's policy where the Lib Dems in Scotland do have an agreed alternative policy
- the banks getting away with more, another area that the Lib Dems are and have been leading the political debate
- a) dropping another Scot to counter Nicola Sturgeon, especially when they were already on the panel
- b) dropping the one party that stand outs on many of the questions that were actually asked
As for it being regrettable but necessary to drop Jo Swinson, this is the second time this year she has been dropped at such sort notice. At least this time she hadn't made plans to go out of her way. Edinburgh after all isn't that far away from her East Dunbartonshire constituency. Also when have they ever dropped the Labour or Conservative politician from the panel to add diversity, or indeed ever dropped one not to be replaced by another. Indeed only last week as well as a Conservative MP we had Kirsty Allsop who is advising the Tories on housing, where is the balance in such a panel. Often the Lib Dems only have a liberal leaning celebrity to raise our points instead not as well as a politician.