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Last Updated: Monday, 1 August 2005, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Anger at news special audience
QUESTIONS OF SECURITY
Huw Edwards

The BBC has explained why there was a deliberately disproportionate number of Muslims in a studio audience for a news special on terrorism, in the wake of audience complaints.

Dozens of viewers emailed or called to complain that the audience for Questions of Security: A BBC News Special, did not reflect UK society as a whole.

The complainants, more than 50 of who got in touch, also said the audience seemed too critical of the police and security services with no obvious counter viewpoints.

Some viewers felt that the audience selection for the show, broadcast on BBC One on 28 July and hosted by Huw Edwards, did not meet the rigid guidelines usually followed by Question Time.

'Unrepresentative'

One viewer said: "I felt that the audience for this programme was not representative of the British public.

"What methodology was used to recruit the audience? And why were the views and concerns of the victims of the bombings, as well as the wider public, commuters, etc, so downplayed?"

Another said: "I assumed that this programme was for serious consumption by the whole UK, but yet again the BBC made up a studio audience with an ethnic mix reflecting that of south east London rather than the UK as a whole."

The studio audience contained a higher proportion of Muslims in the audience than in the population as a whole
Sue Inglish,
Head of Political Programmes

A third added: "I do not pay my licence fee to watch a unrepresentative Muslim audience like this."

In response, BBC Head of Political Programmes Sue Inglish said: "As Huw Edwards explained at the start of the programme, the studio audience was made up of a variety of people from a range of communities, particularly those most affected by the questions we were discussing in the wake of the bombings of 7 July and the incidents on 21 July.

"The audience was selected to ensure that there would be a wide-ranging discussion on the key issues like police powers, the role of Muslim leaders in condemning the attacks and preventing more terror, the effect of the Iraq war, asylum procedures and so on.

"In order to ensure a range of voices on these issues, the studio audience contained a higher proportion of Muslims in the audience than in the population as a whole - around 15% of the audience as opposed to 2.7% in the country as a whole and 8.4% in London according to the 2001 census.

"But the rest of the audience - around 85% - included representatives of a number of other different ethnic and religious groups, including Christian, Hindu, Sikh, African Caribbean, English, Irish, Kashmiri and Turkish.

"The questions raised by the audience reflected the concerns of many people in the wake of the attacks and were robustly dealt with by the panel, which represented a wide range of views and voices."


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