Reform the Questions; Sharpen the Debate. How Question Time Must Evolve

12 May 2014


I'm a huge fan of BBC Question Time and I watch the programme avidly. However, I have started to become rather tired of how the debate is structured. The straw that broke the back for me was the show last Thursday, featuring Grant Shapps MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Chuka Umunna MP, Shirley Williams (Liberal Democrat peer) and finally UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

Usually, David Dimbleby chairs a fair debate between all the panellists. However, during the course of last Thursday, I felt he lost control; what we witnessed was a shouting match.


I appreciate politics is a passionate subject, however, with the European elections only around the corner I feel we need to have these debates and programmes produced more engagingly. I genuinely cannot see any value in people spending an hour shouting over each other and the same questions being trotted out every week.

So, with this problem in mind, I have decided to come up with a new format for the show moving forward. I think once the panel has been introduced to the audience in the studio and at home, the panellists should only get ninety seconds to answer each question. The chair would still hold the right to which panellist answer the questions and in which order. The chair would also be responsible for making sure the panellist answers within the time-frame set out.

Other panellists would not be able to make comments during another panellist speaking. If they chose to re-buff another panellist, they must do so during their answer to the audience member’s question. I would also allow an extension for each panellist. If a panellist feels they have a wider point, they could say 'extension' at the start of their answer and be allowed, for instance, an extra thirty seconds. With this in mind, each panellist should only be allowed one extension per show. This would make the debate more tactical, and more engaging for viewers. Indeed, without interference from other panellists, answers would be sharpened up, allowing for a more civilised discussion. 

I also think that they should not be spending more than fifteen minutes on a single question. It has become apparent that the show has got into the habit of spending a ridiculous portion of the allotted time talking about a single issue. I think this is turning people off political debate as they are hearing the same tired questions and answers again and again.

The final suggestion I have for the show is that the producers manage the questions that are asked on a weekly basis. Why are we talking about immigration every week? I appreciate this is a hot potato at the moment and is a major issue in British politics. However, I don't think it is in the national interest to be speaking about it every week on Question Time. There are a huge range of topical and challenging events occurring in the world at the minute, let’s hear politicians speak about more than a narrow, restricted range of them!

Indeed, let's save this fantastic programme before we shout it out of the TV schedule.

By Sean Mallis

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