For many people it sparked the question: are the panellists and audience members deliberately chosen to cause anger? Question Time usually brings a diverse mix of voices and issues to the forefront – see Stella Creasy’s perfect response to Piers Morgan, and Francesca Martinez on why disability can’t go ignored – but the show has caused noticeable friction over recent months.
Now, the BBC show’s host Fiona Bruce has acknowledged and responded to the show’s “anger” and “toxicity”.
In an interview with Radio Times, Bruce talks about the current atmosphere around the show, saying: “It’s a lot calmer than last year. There was a level of anger and toxicity that this year, so far, is absent.”
She explained the importance of debate, continuing: “I’m all for a passionate debate, and sometimes things can be heated, which is fine, up to a point.
“As long as we remember that we are human beings. I feel very strongly about that.
“I hadn’t anticipated that I would spend so much of my time last year saying: ‘We don’t talk to each other like this’.”
But it can be argued that, following Fox’s appearance in January, this atmosphere hasn’t actually improved much.
Responding to his comments on the show, Bruce says: “I had a briefing about Laurence, and what he might say, but the thing about Question Time is that it’s entirely unpredictable, so people will get into arguments.”
However, Labour MP Diane Abbott –who previously complained that the BBC had legitimised the “mistreatment, bias and abuse” she received during an appearance on the show – has tweeted saying that the show’s “nastiness” is no “surprise”.
She wrote: “Baffling that Fiona Bruce is ‘surprised’ at the level of nastiness in BBC Question Time discussions. Audience & panellists chosen to achieve exactly that effect @bbcquestiontime.”
People have supported Abbott’s tweet, with one person replying: “I truly used to enjoy it but over the past year it has really dropped its standards, it’s been quite a shock to realise it’s not as impartial as I had thought, I just can’t watch anymore which is sad.”
Another added: “Sign of the times. People are becoming toxic at all levels from the highest level to school kids. Very worrying and disturbing.”
The question now is: will the BBC take action on guests who share hate-filled comments like Fox’s?