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Question Time: Why can’t the BBC admit if it’s wrong?

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27.01.2019

I have a sad confession to make: I used to love BBC’s Question Time so much that I would only go out on a Thursday night if it meant coming home in time to watch it live. Now it just makes me sad. With public discourse increasingly polarised, all views cheered or jeered by a baying crowd online and off, Question Time is the public square where we get to watch bears being poked. It not only televises the deep divisions in the country, but the uncomfortable position the BBC adopts to straddle them.

Since replacing the veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby with Fiona Bruce, the show has stirred up a hornets’ nest of right/left division in just three episodes, ending last week with a clarification about whether Labour or the Tories were ahead in opinion polls, which reminded us why BBC bureaucracy is the subject of such satire.

To recap: Bruce’s second episode prompted loud support from Conservative voices such as Sarah Vine and the Telegraph but more than 100 complaints over the show’s treatment of the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, and a Momentum petition for an apology.

By replacing Dimbleby with a BBC newsreader best known for helping members of the public sell things they find in the attic on Antiques Roadshow, the BBC hoped to find a figurehead who spoke for the ordinary viewer. She is more shire than Westminster; no wonder the Telegraph, which sends Bruce to report on nice holidays, loves her.

The affair raises important issues for the BBC about impartiality and trust. Ofcom, currently reviewing its news division, said when it was launched: “As national debates become more polarised, it becomes harder for broadcasters to be seen to be accurate and impartial. The BBC has to ensure it devotes the appropriate resources to maintain its position.”

Here are some suggestions. First, spend time and........

© The Guardian