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Each week, in different locations around the UK (and sometimes outside it) a group of five or six panelists answer unseen questions from a studio audience (who also comment on the issues) on matters of current affairs. The panel usually consists of three members from the three biggest UK parties and two other public figures. There usually is a government minister present. If the show is coming from Scotland, the SNP will have a panellist, with Plaid Cymru turning up for Welsh editions. When the show goes to Northern Ireland, the four main NI parties are represented and the big three (who don't really run in the province) aren't present.
Sometimes called "Iraq Time" these days, due to the frequency of the topic turning up in a question. More recently, the expenses scandal is sure to turn up with tiresome regularity, often in the form of a failed attempt at humour by the questioner.
Spoofed in the Thursday Next series as "Avoid the Question Time", presented as a gameshow in which politicians win points for how skilfully they avoid answering the audience's questions and twist them into non sequiturish attacks on the other parties present. Which is painfully close to the real thing. Was also the subject of a parody by Not the Nine O'Clock News, where the programme is supposedly being recorded shortly after the Soviets had launched nuclear missiles at the UK, and besides one Only Sane Man panellist, they spend their time bickering about which party's period in government is to blame for the crisis.
Commonly referenced is the fact that presenter David Dimbleby will refer to audience members asking questions as, e.g. "You, sir, in the orange shirt with the grey hair," and amusingly frequently gets the gender wrong.
This show contains examples of:
- Angry White Man: Arguably Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, during his controversial appearance on the show.
- Deadpan Snarker: Dimbleby can sometimes cross into this, for example when Eric Pickles was trying to justify claiming expenses for a second home when he lives only 37 miles from Westminster.
- Live Episode: While the majority are filmed a few hours before broadcast, a few editions have been done live.
- Although the Director General of the BBC did apologise for making the episode after 9/11 live, in which audience comments about the US being ultimately responsible because of its own foreign policy prompted thousands of complaints.
- Sound to Screen Adaptation: The show is a visuals-added version Radio 4's Any Questions?, which started in the 1950s and is hosted by Jonathan Dimbleby, David's brother.
- Twitter: In 2009, the show launched the hashtag #bbcqt and the user @bbcquestiontime, leading to much popularity on the site, spawning its own memes...
- Viewer Gender Confusion: Dimbleby and the audience members.
- Younger and Hipper: Young Voters' Question Time, broadcast on the Younger and Hipper BBC Three.