Question Time: Can't the BBC allow us one hour of unashamedly highbrow televison?

We no longer have reasoned arguments between people who know what they're talking about, interspersed with intelligent contributions from the audience

Share
Related Topics

I don't care if you call me a miserable old codger, but there are times when I just despair of the modern world.

It doesn't happen very often, yet I couldn't help but sink into a pit of desperation during last week's edition of Question Time.

Is this what has happened to public discourse in Britain? Has Twitter bred a generation for whom anything but a soundbite requires too much concentration? And is everyone given a voice, no matter whether they've got anything to say or not?

I remember the time, not so very long ago, when Question Time was reflective of serious national debate, and was a flagship current affairs programme. You'd have four serious politicians and a wild card, a journalist with a viewpoint or a notable public figure, and the exchanges would be informed, elucidatory and often entertaining.

For the past 18 years, David Dimbleby has moderated the discussion in unimpeachable fashion. But something has happened relatively recently to the programme, and I suspect it is the result of how debate is conducted outside the cloistered environment from where the broadcast emanates each week.

For a start, we no longer have reasoned arguments between people who know what they're talking about, interspersed with intelligent contributions from the audience. In the era when everyone has to have an opinion, when the idea of proper discourse is a barrage of ill-considered comments on internet sites, this once intellectually challenging programme seems to have descended to the level of a local radio phone-in.

Almost everyone in the auditorium gets a chance with the radio mike, including one memorable contribution last week from a man who seemed to think the new HS2 rail link was a road.  Clearly in an effort to chase a wider, younger audience - Why? Can't the BBC allow us one hour of unashamedly highbrow televison?  - the makers of Question Time increasingly invite comedians, actors and celebrities on to give us their views on the big political issues of the day.

Last week, the panel was made up of two politicians - Alan Johnson, Sayeeda Warsi (better known as Baroness Patronising of Platitude) - two journalists, and a comedian, Dom Joly. Now, I bow to no one in appreciation of the talents of Mr Joly, and I happen to know he is an erudite, well-travelled man with wide interests. But I couldn't have been alone in wondering why I was watching a programme in which he is giving his opinion on the military intervention in Mali (he made the dubious point that it was refreshing to see the French in action, if you're interested).

I found it all rather pointless and depressing, mainly because it felt a reflection of so much of what happens in real life. All heat, no light, and precious little nuance. Of course, the democratisation of communications is a good thing, if up to a point. The fact that we can all now find a channel to disseminate comment and information is a benefit conferred by the digital age, but a cacophony of voices will not necessarily lead to illumination. Certainly, on the evidence of Question Time, answers may now be even harder to come by.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant

£12024: Randstad Education Leeds: Teaching Assistant September 2014 start - te...

Physics Teacher

£130 - £162 per day + UPS: Randstad Education Hull: Physics Teacher Long Term ...

IT Technician (1st/2nd line support) - Leatherhead, Surrey

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Technician (1st/2nd line support)...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's letter: Summer holidays are here... so what to do with the children?

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

The daily catch-up: knitting, why Ed wants to be PM and a colloquium of Indy-pedants

John Rentoul
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn