• In his speech, The Trouble with Trust, the BBC director-general Mark Thompson called for greater transparency in the BBC's dealings with political parties:

    "There are steps we should take to make our own dealings with politicians and other public figures more open to scrutiny. When A refuses to debate with B or sets other conditions before an interview or debate, there's often a case for letting the public know - for example, via the Editors' Blog..."

    So here goes. This week, for the first time in my three years as executive editor of Question Time, we were told by Downing Street that a cabinet minister would only appear on the programme if another member of the panel was replaced. According to No 10, a senior member of the cabinet was available to do Question Time but only if Alastair Campbell was replaced by a member of the shadow cabinet.

    Very obviously, we refused and as a result no minister appeared, meaning that the government was not represented on the country's most-watched political programme in Queen's Speech week - one of the most important moments in the Parliamentary calendar.

    No 10 stated that the objection to Alastair Campbell was that he was not an elected Labour representative or a front-bencher. Not only is Alastair Campbell one of the most senior and influential figures in the Labour movement - an architect of New Labour - but Labour ministers regularly appeared on Question Time panels when the then opposition was represented either by someone outside of the front bench or by an unelected panellist - sometimes even a prospective Parliamentary candidate. It is not an argument or an objection that bears scrutiny.

    It is a fundamental principle of our independence that politicians cannot dictate who sits on the panel. It is for Question Time, not for political parties, to make judgments about impartiality and to determine who is invited to appear in the interests of the audience. Parties are free of course to accept or reject those invitations, but they do not have a right of veto over other panellists. Licence fee payers rightly insist that the BBC must be free from political interference.

    Gavin Allen is executive editor, Question Time.

  • In Panorama: A Very British Hero, Christina Schmid - the widow of army bomb disposal expert Oz Schmid - reveals how the Army is failing in its duty of care to this tiny elite band of soldiers who are at the very forefront of the war in Afghanistan.

    The one-off documentary sees Christina examine how Oz and his colleagues have been expected to work for months on end without a proper break defusing anything up to 10-15 Taliban devices a day in the harshest of conditions, because there simply aren't enough of them.

    In the specially-authored programme which transmits on BBC One on 24th May at 8.30pm she also uncovers the decisions taken early in the war that helped contribute to this shortfall as the number and impact of Taliban IEDs (explosive devices) has risen dramatically.

    Panorama: A Very British Hero, BBC One, Monday, 24 May at 2030 BST.


  • The film Endgame, produced by Hal Vogel and David Aukin for Daybreak Pictures is to receive the highly prestigious Peabody award for Drama.

    David Aukin will accept the award at the 69th Ceremony which will be held on May 17th, 2010 in New York.

    The Peabody Awards, first established in 1941, recognise the very best of all genres of electronic media including radio, television and cable channels and are determined using just one criterion - excellence - by a panel of 16 distinguished academics, television critics, industry practitioners and experts in culture and the arts.

    Endgame was originally broadcast on Channel 4 and shown by WGBH in the US. The dramatic film is based on the real life secret talks between the Africaaners and the ANC which ultimately led to the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid in South Africa. The story shows how its possible for the apparently irreconcilable to be reconciled.

    Producer, David Aukin, said: "We are delighted that Endgame has been recognised by such a prestigious institution. The creative team of Paula Milne, the writer, Pete Travis, the Director, and the brilliant cast led by William Hurt and Chiwetel Ejiofor, deserve the credit."

    For more information please contact Louise Plank on 020 8995 3936 or lou@plankpr.com

  • Question Time was watched by 3.5 million viewers in the first edition since the coalition government was formed, it was announced today (THURS).

    David Dimbleby hosted the programme from London which saw Conservative peer Lord Heseltine, Labour peer Lord Falconer, Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips and Mehdi Hasan of the New Statesman address questions from the audience.

    Executive Producer, Steve Anderson, said: "The audience reflects a fascinating time in British politics and this was the first opportunity viewers had to express their opinions on a coalition government."

    For further information please contact Louise Plank on 020 8995 3936 or lou@plankpr.com

  • Bella McShane

    As I reached for a black olive and goat's cheese tartlet canapé, served to me by Ed Miliband, I wondered whether Gordon Brown would appear to wipe the crumbs from my mouth or David Cameron might start polishing my shoes at any minute, neither would surprise me at this stage. The last four months have been a series of surreal events strung together around the working week and I have loved every moment of it.

    I began my 'Question Time' adventure as a two week work-experience stint. It was pure and utter luck that I arrived just as election fever was beginning to take off. The 'Question Time' team at Mentorn Media had been commissioned to make a series of current affairs programmes for BBC THREE with Dermot O'Leary, targeted at first time voters and I just so happened to be their target audience. I have since rubbed shoulders with the political and intellectual glitterati. I watched the BBC debate with Janet Street Porter, dined next to Carol Vorderman and debated the expenses crisis with Lynn Featherstone and Douglas Murray. All the while pretending to be completely at ease, yet inside shouting something along the lines of 'I am actually having a conversation with the legend that is David Dimbleby'! Or Dimbers as I like to call him (not to his face though, obviously).

    I must point out at this stage that I am probably not one of those supposedly disengaged by politics. I was lucky enough to have a truly inspiring politics teacher at school. His passion was infectious and resulted in me studying the subject at University, which I graduated from last year. I often think if it was not for him would I now be pursuing a completely different career? I had my sixth form teacher, America has Obama, and thirteen years ago the UK had Tony Blair. Who exists today that can inspire young people to go to the ballot box on May 6th?

    Cue Dermot.

    When I first mentioned to my friends that Dermot O'Leary was turning his talent towards politics, I have witnessed the odd raised eyebrow. Dermot O'Leary and politics? Yes, I am forced to say, he does have a politics degree. I can still see their scepticism. 'Is this one of those embarrassing attempts by the broadcasters to seem down wid the kidz?', they continue. Well yes, I again reply. This is a genuine and vital move by broadcasters to engage and inform millions from my generation.

    Prior to the campaign, a survey revealed that a third of students do not know that Gordon Brown is the leader of the Labour party and less than half (48%) knew that Nick Clegg is the Liberal Democrat leader.

    Should we blame the apathy of this generation on the decade they grew up in - the 1990's? For many, its single most dramatic event was the Spice Girls separating, conveniently forgetting the economic crisis of '92 and the first Gulf War. We did not live through a sexual revolution, women's liberation or Thatcherism. When Tony Blair became Prime Minister, we were far too young to understand the dramatic shift that had occurred or how important this event was.

    Many of my contemporaries complain that their only interaction with politics has left them deeply wounded. When thousands marched on the streets of London against the Iraq war, they felt their protest was ignored. Arguments against the introduction of tuition fees were disregarded, in their view. They say that debts of £20,000 serve to illustrate that when this generation shouts, it is rarely heard.

    Then there is the media. Arguably, the internet age and 24 hour news has left many too impatient for a full manifesto or a newspaper spread: Politicians are under intense pressure to deliver a clear and decisive policy in one sentence, or risk the instant judgement of the remote control. And that darn Barak Obama is merely adding fuel to the fire. If politicians fail to ooze his charisma, there is little mercy, as far as I can judge. They are expected to fit nicely within our celebrity culture and slot right between Jordan and Stephen Fry.

    Hearing a friend ask during the chancellor's debate: 'Who is that guy with the funny eyebrows?' or listening to many who believe that you vote for the party, not an individual candidate; all of this opened my eyes to a disconnect that appears to exist between politicians and young voters.

    But it's not all a bleak picture. This election campaign with its historic TV debates, and attempts by broadcasters to reach out to younger voters, does appear to have had a positive effect. Thousands of young people look like they are joining in with the political debate: 50,000 registered on the day of the electoral deadline; 14,000 registration forms were downloaded by Facebook users, and just over 40% of all those visiting the About My Vote website were young people aged 18 to 25. It is worth noting that BBC Newsround is consistently the most watched terrestrial children's programme. Observing a group of first time voters grill the leaders for BBC Newsbeat, the passion and intelligence of my generation was clearly visible.

    Television appears to provide the ideal link between young people and politics. When Mentorn Media made the initial 'First Time Voters' Question Time' in March, 400,000 people tuned in. Also, for BBC THREE, Mentorn produced Dermot's interviews with Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron- all programmes I was lucky enough to work on. And there is more to come, the second edition of 'First Time Voters' which will be aired on the eve of the election at 8pm on BBC THREE.

    Since working at 'Question Time' I have morphed into a magnet for people who want to discuss politics. I have been asked everything from 'who should I vote for?' to 'do you fancy David Miliband as much as me?' I have learnt two things: many young people want to know more about even the basics of our political system and secondly, young people may well have a decisive say in this election. With around 4 million of them, they are a mighty force and one that needs to be taken seriously. So what is the solution to the problem of a disillusioned generation? Do politicians need to speak in a language that young people can understand? Perhaps. Do young people need to take more time to learn about politics? Perhaps. Do broadcasters need to create more current affairs programme targeted at my generation? Most definitely.