Thursday, 9 January 2014

No show for pensioners

A TV critic, who is also an avid tweeter, backs the UK’s principal pensioners organisation in their campaign to appear on the BBC’s Question Time.
The one-hour topical debate programme is made by independent production company Mentorn and has just celebrated its 34th birthday. In a pre-recorded show currently presented by David Dimbleby, politicians from at least three major political parties are joined by other public figures to answer pre-selected questions from a selected audience.
On 26 September 2013 the show featured education secretary Michael Gove MP, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander MP, UKIP candidate and Daily Express chief political commentator Patrick O’Flynn, novelist Will Self and journalist Louise Cooper.
The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) is 35 years old this year. It is made up of around 1,000 bodies representing 1.5 million members.
No NPC representative has ever appeared on Question Time. For the last two years the organisation has been making repeated appearance requests to the BBC and Mentorn and supporters have leafleted the audience as they go into what is the BBC’s flagship political programme. The NPC has reported that their correspondence is now no longer acknowledged.
The NPC has no elected representatives in either central of local government but its national officer, Neil-Duncan Jordan, said: “We have significantly more members than any of the political parties. Older people also play an important role in the country through volunteering and providing unpaid care. If the leader of the National Union of Students can appear on Question Time then why not us?” 
Andy Dawson is a comedy writer turned TV critic for the Daily Mirror. He is well-known as Twitter’s Profanity Swan and describes himself as ‘an avid Question Time live tweeter.’ Earlier this year he heavily criticised the programme after comic actor Russell Brand appeared alongside London Mayor Boris Johnson and right-wing journalist Melanie Phillips. After viewers were left disappointed by the lack of any clashes, Dawson supported criticism of a similar nature in other papers when he said: “Question Time continues to become less about reasoned political debate and more about gawping at some firecracker guests in the hope they’ll all bang at the same time.”
Dawson believes “there are no valid reasons why the NPC shouldn’t sit on the Question Time panel. Pensioners are largely ignored by the popular media as it is, and it would be great to see them represented instead of yet another tired old newspaper columnist.”
Asked about the NPC’s request a BBC spokesperson said: “Question Time prides itself on representing all sections of society and many panel and invited audience members are over or close to retirement age. The selection of guests outside political parties is usually based on topicality or direct involvement with an appropriate issue.” 

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