A couple of weeks ago, Jo Swinson was dropped from BBC Question Time at 48 hours notice. A number of Lib Dem bloggers were very unhappy about this, indeed Caron Lindsay even started a group on the Lib Dem ACT system to protest about it.
Some people (including myself) contacted the BBC to complain about this decision. It seemed a particularly bad decision given that was the week that Iraq war inquiry started (Lib Dems were the only major party to oppose the war) and it was the second time in four weeks that there had been no Lib Dem on the panel. There were some suggestions that Jo was dropped to make room for the SNP as the show was broadcast from Scotland but the Lib Dems have 12 times as many MPs in Scotland as the Tories and they still had a representative on the panel. Also, there were two non-politicians on the panel. Why could one of them not have been bumped.
Anyway I have not received a response to my complaint yet but Daisy Benson, a Lib Dem councillor from Reading (who blogs here) was one of the other people to complain and she mentioned on Twitter that she has received a response today. Here it is:
Thank you for your e-mail regarding 'Question Time':We forwarded concerns on this issue to 'Question Time' Executive Editor Gavin Allen who explained that we constantly monitor the balance of the panel and that in light of their national electoral strength, the level of representation for the Liberal Democrats on the programme remains very strong. He added that on this occasion the panel was rearranged to reflect a change in the prominence of some of the issues due to be discussed on the programme and in order to facilitate debate by having representatives willing to question the central political consensus on these issues, of which the Liberal Democrats are a part. He also added that: "It was regrettable - but necessary - that the decision to replace Jo Swinson was taken relatively late, but we have to keep a constant editorial eye out for the best possible panel and this can of course mean last-minute alterations.To ensure the widest range of political views are heard there are occasions across the series when nationalists or minority parties are invited onto the panel". We'd like to assure you that we've registered your complaint on our audience log.This is a daily report of audience feedback that's circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers. The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content. Thanks again for taking the time to contact us. Regards BBC Complaints
The bit I have highlighted in bold seems to be their main justification and yet it seems very vague and generic. Has anyone got any idea what he's talking about? The fact we opposed the Iraq war and a question on that was almost bound to come up strongly rebuffs his point about Lib Dems being "part of the central political consensus".
Anyway, I doubt the people who complained will be satisfied with this but hopefully the complaints will make this sort of thing less likely to happen in the future.
It's also worth noting that when I lodged my complaint with the duty log, the fact that there were two non-politicians on the panel when Jo was being dropped seemed unfair even to the chap who was logging it!