What is BBC Question Time?
In the UK, one important forum for the general public to directly interact with their politicians is the BBC’s Question Time programme, which is recorded and broadcast every Thursday evening outside of parliamentary recess. It attracts an average viewing audience of 2.7 million people, and usually trends on Twitter during and after each episode.
The show moves around the country and at the end of the episode the next two locations are announced, with viewers in the area encouraged to apply for a free audience ticket. The five-person always contains one representative each from the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems; the fourth panelist is increasingly likely to be from UKIP; and the final panelist is usually from a profession relevant to the main topic of discussion.
How does the format work?
Each audience member is asked to write and submit two questions (one each on a slip of paper) about an hour before the recording. The key requirements are that the question is pithy (the more antagonistic the better) and relevant to the week’s news (the more recent the better). The questions are collected and divided into rough piles to show which four or five topics are the most popular. The “best” question is then chosen from each pile, and the four or five questions are then put in order of importance, with the first question getting most air time and the last getting least (or in danger of not being asked at all). It’s usually the case that a question on the most relevant and serious topic will be asked first, and a slightly jokey question kept for last, but there have been instances in the past where I have strongly disagreed with the amount of time given to a particular question, and rest assured I’ll point it out wherever I see it!
Why review it?
The format guarantees at least three MPs on the panel and at least four topical questions relating to the week’s news, so it’s a good way to both keep up with current affairs and get to know different politicians.