Question Time "Paranoid" at Unpredictable Audience Tonight

The Question Time audience is often derided for being out of touch with mainstream public opinion and clapping contradictory arguments, but sometimes they cross the line. Back in 2001, just four days after the attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers, the BBC was hit by one mighty PR disaster when their carefully selected, and oh so balanced, audience almost reduced a former US Ambassador to tears by repeatedly blaming America for the attacks, while the ruins were still smouldering. Director General Greg Dyke said at the time:

“…despite the best efforts of David Dimbleby and the panel, there were times in the programme when the tone was not appropriate, given the terrible events of this week. I have today spoken to Phillip Lader, the former US Ambassador to the UK who was on the panel, and apologised for any distress the programme may have caused him.”

Well we are ten years on and Guido hears that the BBC’s paranoia around tonight’s anniversary episode is intense. Producers are said to be particularly worried about the audience reaction to Reagan and Bush defence advisor, and the spiritual godfather of neo-conservatism, Richard Perle. Insiders say the audience has been “softened”. The programme’s production-company Mentorn declined to comment when Guido put it to them that there had been a significant re-jigging of audience members today…

The BBC press office are looking into the matter…

UPDATE Friday 09:00: The BBC got in touch over night to say usual practice applied to audience selection last night.

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