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That's entertainment!

This episode of BBC QT from 1992 guested Michael Heseltine, John Smith, Alan Beith, and the then 38-yr old Alex Salmond.

Saturday, March 23, 2024
3 mins

'Entertainment Value?

by Les Bertrand

We had planned to share our observations on Wednesday's edition of BBC Scotland's Debate Night from Stirling.

While reviewing our notes we became depressed and decided not to inflict our cynicism on anyone else but we're fairly sure that our reaction is shared by many who, for whatever reason, feel 'obliged' to watch this type of thing.

It's hard to explain why the programme (on which BBC Scotland's Debate Night is modelled) was so important back in the day. This episode from 1992, presented by Peter Sissons, guested Michael Heseltine, John Smith, Alan Beith, and the then 38-yr old Alex Salmond. No actors, comedians, celebrity chefs, poets, magicians or Big Brother contestants were on the panel. We leave it to readers to form their own evaluations on what difference, if any, their absence makes to the quality of the discussion.

(Alex Salmond makes his first contribution at approx 5mins40secs and the question 'Are the days of the Union numbered?' is raised at approx 9mins40secs.)

BBC 1 - Question time - General election (2nd April 1992), Michael Heseltine - Plus continuity links (youtube.com)

We have asked, via Twitter, if anyone can remember when QT first started inviting non-politicians. We suspect that one of the first was probably Ian Hislop. And the reason we harbour this suspicion is because we find it difficult, casting our minds back, to differentiate between memories of BBC QT and Have I Got New For You. There must be a significant cohort of well-kent faces who have appeared on both. And some of them will also have presented the latter. (Charles Kennedy was particularly good as we recall.)

These programmes are popular because they are entertaining. They would not be broadcast at peak viewing times otherwise. But whether or not QT (both UK and Scottish versions) should be entertaining is another matter. We suggest, with all due respect to the participants on Wednesday's Debate Night episode, that it was deserving of many adjectives but, sadly, 'entertaining' does not appear in the top five.

FWIW, we would like to see 'special' Debate Night broadcasts where all of the guests are citizens who share the same profession. We could, for example, have a show broadcast from Glasgow starring five taxi drivers. Others: from Aberdeen with five hairdressers...five farmers in Dumfries...Edinburgh publicans...

You get the idea. Eventually, some broadcaster may even entertain the idea of inviting ordinary Scots, selected at random from the electoral register, to appear on the show if they are willing to do so. Or the constituents of any given area could decide amongst themselves which local non-politician they would like to see representing them.

These are just suggestions and there must be many more creative possibilities open to the skilled production and technical people who make these 'flagship' programmes. We hope to see at least some of them being taken up by mainstream broadcasters because, right now, social media is leaving them in the dust and what we were offered on Wednesday night will not age well.

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