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|Genre||Topical debate radio|
|Running time||50 minutes|
|Home station||BBC Light Programme
BBC Radio 2
BBC Radio 4
Freddie Grisewood (1948 to 1967)
David Jacobs (1967 to 1984)
John Timpson (1984 to 1987)
Jonathan Dimbleby (1987 - present)
|Air dates||12 October 1948 to Present|
It is broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on Friday evenings and repeated on Saturday afternoons, when it is followed by a phone-in response programme, Any Answers?, previously a postal response slot. Questions were originally far more diverse with a panel often made up of a clergyman, a journalist, an academic and either a politician or a trades unionist. Since current affairs journalists became its chairmen it nowadays typically features a panel with four members drawn from politicians from the three major UK political parties and other public figures who answer questions put to them by the audience, who are drawn from the locality being visited. Questions are collected from the audience and a number are then selected by a BBC producer. The chairman is Jonathan Dimbleby and it is produced by Lisa Jenkinson. In recent years the programme has made prominent use of the microblogging site Twitter, including the hashtag #bbcaq.
When the programme was first broadcast there was a rule that no questions could be asked on topics that had been discussed in the Houses of Parliament during the last two weeks. This rule created considerable consternation to the panellists on a programme during the Suez war. Over time the rule was relaxed and eventually dropped. Another rule lasted much longer - a 1947 Cabinet Office minute barred ministers from appearing on the programme for many years on the grounds that a minister should not be expected to answer questions beyond their ministerial brief. Question Time launched without such a limitation and much lobbying took place until a Tory minister was allowed to take part. Since then the rules for ministers appearance has been the same for both radio and television. The panel members are not notified of the questions before the programme, although questions usually cover topical political questions. The last question is normally light hearted - the one most politicians fear most.
Any Questions? was originated by Frank Gillard, a former war correspondent and later Managing Director of BBC Radio. It was first broadcast from Winchester on 12 October 1948 as a programme on the Home Service in the West of England. It has been broadcast nationally since 1950, although for many years it still came exclusively from venues in the West Country.
It was initially broadcast nationally on the BBC Light Programme and BBC Radio 2 (even being simulcast on BBC Radio 1 from 6 October 1967 to 3 April 1970). However, in this era it was repeated on the Home Service and later Radio 4. The programme has gone out exclusively on Radio 4 since 10 April 1970. It inspired the television version, Question Time, on BBC1 on Thursday evenings, chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby's older brother, David Dimbleby. Their father also worked for the BBC.
- On 11 October 2008, a programme was broadcast from Winchester marking the sixtieth anniversary of the programme. The panel were Shirley Williams, Oliver Letwin, Harriet Harman and Peter Hennessy. The programme ended with a question asking whether Winchester should again be the capital of England.
- In 1976 when broadcasting from a United Reformed Church in Basingstoke, Enoch Powell was part of the panel. During the programme, anti-fascist protesters threw bricks at the church. The programme was stopped but resumed after ten minutes.
It has had four permanent chairmen in its history:
- Freddie Grisewood from 1948 to December 1967
- David Jacobs from December 1967 to 27 July 1984
- John Timpson from August 1984 to July 1987
- Jonathan Dimbleby from July 1987; on the occasions when he is unable to chair the programme, others have substituted, including Nick Clarke, Eddie Mair and Martha Kearney.
Many popular figures have appeared on the programme more than once: the record for appearances is held by Tony Benn, who first appeared as a panel member in March 1951 and contributed to over 80 programmes.