IN early 2010, I arrived at BBC Television Centre in London fresh out of school and ready to begin a new job. The workplace I found there was energetic and exciting, and my workmates full of talent and principle.

In the early days, before the novelty wore off, I spent many a lunchtime hanging around the guest entrance longing for a glimpse of whoever was scheduled to appear on the next Jonathan Ross Show or Newsnight. Plenty of recognisable faces from all spheres of public life walked in and out of the famous doors, and the building ticked along with little pause for occasion.

But this hadn’t always been the case. Beneath the shiny surface, a hangover remained from an editorial decision made a few months previously: to invite then BNP leader Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time. Fiery media debate had barely died down in the months that had passed, and rumours abounded of staff having threatened not to work; guests refusing to share green rooms; and concerns about a threatened audience boycott resulting from Griffin’s invitation. The reaction provoked was unprecedented and almost a decade on, the weekly Question Time panel arguably remains the most scrutinised TV line-up in the country.

But could all that be about to change following David Dimbleby’s announcement on Sunday that he is to step down from presenting duties after 25 year at Question Time’s helm? While Twitter debates possible replacements and bookmakers scramble to name a favourite, Dimbleby’s departure might present a unique opportunity: not just to refresh the Question Time format, but to replace it altogether.

On paper, Question Time is a textbook example of political programming. Take a selection of politicians, public figures and commentators from across the political spectrum, add a discerning host and an audience ready to challenge and hold their representatives to account, and then tour it around the country in order to ensure representation and coverage of regional priorities and concerns. The general public is given direct access to high-profile politicians, the issues of the day are dissected and debated, a range of voices are aired and the country’s political climate is strengthened as a result.

And for a while, this is how Question Time worked. When it launched in 1979, the format represented something fresh and new in political programming.

The reception was so positive that what had been intended as a short run of episodes was extended into a weekly flagship show that has remained on air for almost 40 years. But herein lies the problem; while the political climate of the UK and the world has changed beyond recognition in those 40 years, Question Time remains stoically consistent.

The Nick Griffin controversy of 2009, for example, seems hard to imagine now. With the drastic shifting of the parameters of acceptable public debate has come a difficult challenge for supposedly neutral broadcasters such as the BBC, who have at times interpreted this duty as meaning that every black contributor must be balanced out with a rampaging racist, or every woman discussing sexual assault with a man who believes it doesn’t exist. Question Time is no exception: it’s become a cliche to compare Nigel Farage’s QT appearances with his lack of electoral success, but his ubiquity on the panel speaks to a wider issue with the meaning of balance amidst a values system thrown into flux.

While the case is often made that the Question Time format provides a chance to challenge and debate those who appear on the panel, in practice the whole charade is more accurately characterised by shouting matches over questions which often reflect the biases of the media bubble better than they do the general public.

One recent episode included the question: “Is housing ownership within the reach of young people if they ditch takeaway coffees and avocado toast?” while International Women’s Day in March was marked by a startling misrepresentation of gender quotas with the question: “Do we want women reaching the top by merit or by making up the numbers?”

And just last week, the Question Time panel included Isabel Oakeshott, a pro-Brexit journalist who had found herself at the centre of a storm only a few days previously after she was accused of hiding evidence of links between the Brexit campaign and Russia for political reasons.

“Isabel Oakeshott will be taking questions” promised the Question Time social media feed. Take questions she did – about seemingly everything else other than her part in a potentially explosive political cover-up.

Political programming is a vital tenet of our democracy and it has real-world impacts. Nick Griffin’s Question Time appearance in 2009 caused a spike in the BNP’s popularity in opinion polls carried out in its immediate aftermath.

Far-right rhetoric pioneered by the likes of Nigel Farage, which would have been considered extremist just decades ago, has gained legitimacy and widespread public support since he has been allowed to espouse it largely unchallenged on some of the most trusted platforms in the country.

In these times of polarisation and shifting boundaries of acceptable debate, we need more than ever for broadcasters to take the lead in creating political programming that is accessible, engaging and fit for purpose.

So let’s take David Dimbleby’s departure as an opportunity to discuss and debate what the media’s political coverage should look like in 2018. Let’s think bigger than white men in suits being heckled by an audience of political anoraks about issues the vast majority of the public haven’t even engaged with.

Let’s take seriously the responsibility of public broadcasters to hold elected politicians to account and let’s engage meaningfully with voices that aren’t currently heard in politics: not populist grumblings about how you can’t say anything anymore, but the experiences of young people, the working class, BME voters and the multitudes of others whose opinions are rarely given any stock by a political elite obsessed instead with soundbites and slogans.

Political programming has a key role to play in keeping our democracy healthy and active, but too much of it is not fit for purpose. Instead of tinkering around the edges of an outdated format, let’s call time on Question Time.