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Date TimeSeptember 15, 2019
VoiceThe BBC panel show now causes as much debate as it hosts, accused of bias by all sides. Presenter Fiona Bruce still has hope for the future
Fiona Bruce on 40 years of Question Time: its where the reality confronts the rhetoric
Question Time turns 40 at the end of this month. The BBC institution is not immune to that birthday’s particular mix of crisis and denial. While the programme’s 25th year was marked with affectionate celebration and nostalgic retrospectives, this time around there will be little fanfare. Mostly, you imagine, like many of us who have experienced that midlife milestone, the show would ideally like to take to its bed in a darkened room to fret about its blood pressure and its sell-by date, and to relive those golden years before any red-faced audience member ever yelled the words “no deal” or “confirmatory vote” or “the Irish backstop”.
For those who hold to the idea that politics and journalism should be more about listening than lecturing, more about informed doubt than angry certainty, Question Time has for a long while been an uncomfortable watch. Since the redoubtable charmer David Dimbleby finally threw in the towel after 25 years, aged 80, in December, the hottest seat in British broadcasting has belonged to Fiona Bruce, who maintains a measure of order with a mixture of good humour and exasperation and that judiciously raised eyebrow. Her early outings on the show were praised for their briskness and confidence. As this long year has worn on, however, she has, like the rest of us, looked a little more beleaguered. She was not 20 minutes into the first show after the summer break before she was calling a time-out to the partisan bickering: “We are better than this.” Most evidence in the current public square suggests that we are not.

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