THERE have been questions on social media around why the same people keep making appearances in the audience of the BBC’s Question Time programme.

The matter of repeat appearances is often brought to us by concerned readers, who will recall former Ukip candidate Billy Mitchell managing to get into the audience four times from 2013 to 2019.

Mitchell, also known as “Orange Jacket Man”, claimed he had been personally invited onto the show by producers seeking more conservative representation. In response the broadcaster said it does occasionally invite people on for balance, but denied this was the case with him.

Steve and Andrea are among the audience members who have made regular appearances

In recent weeks eagle-eyed viewers have spotted audience members appearing time and time again, sharing pictures of repeat contributors online.

Last night there was a Twitter row as it emerged Steve, who said last month that the Royal Navy’s only mistake in the Jersey post-Brexit fishing row was “not sinking the [French] ships”, had appeared once again to have his say on Naomi Osaka’s French Open withdrawal.

The world number 2, aged 23, left the contest after fallout over her choosing not to conduct her media obligations in an effort to preserve her mental health.

“She’s world number 2,” Steve told the panel. “Suddenly it’s a problem being accosted by the press, what happened when she was world number three or number eight, it’s part of the job as it’s been said earlier. That’s what goes with the territory. Okay if she’s suddenly got a problem, a mental health problem, I’d have every sympathy for her.”

The tennis star has spoken about suffering with “long bouts of depression” since 2018.

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The reason the likes of Steve, and Andrea (pictured in the thumbnail), and Chris (who suggested there was no mandate for indyref2 because only about 2% of the UK voted SNP in the Scottish election) keep appearing is because the BBC has changed how it fills the Question Time audience.

Rather than take applications on a weekly basis from a particular area before it travels there, it is operating the “QT50”.

This is a “temporary experiment” while the broadcaster waits for studio audiences to get the go ahead, given the coronavirus situation. It was launched earlier this year.

The BBC states: “As we wait for the vaccine and a return to studio audiences, we are launching the QT50 – an audience panel of 50 people selected from the general public from across the United Kingdom.

Steve and Andrea are among the audience members who have made regular appearances

“We will invite a selection of them to be the Question Time audience each week, so they will each appear more than once. Still joining virtually from home via videolink. Over the course of several weeks, they will have more time to voice their opinions, have their say, share stories, questions and concerns.”

The BBC said it hopes the members of the audience panel will “get to know and engage with each other” – while regular viewers can “follow the evolution of their response to the pandemic and other issues”.

People who are active in politics, are politicians or campaigners are not eligible to join the audience pool, the rules state.

Steve and Andrea are among the audience members who have made regular appearances

When the BBC hosts the show from devolved nations, the same rules apply – though members of the QT50 from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would be likely to get more screen time than those based in England on such occasions.

During the election campaign a man named David appeared at the BBC Leaders’ Debate – and on BBC Scotland’s Debate Night. He used both opportunities to attack the SNP and Scottish Government.

We put several questions to the BBC at the time over how the Voters Panel, which was separate from the QT50, is selected and how they choose which members get more air time than others. We also asked how questions were selected for their first leaders’ debate of the 2021 election.

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A BBC spokesperson told The National: "The audience was selected to reflect the broadest range of views and diversity of opinion, across gender, age, ethnicity, geography, sexuality and disability.

"The audience was drawn from our Voters Panel which was formed following an open invitation to anyone in the public who would like their say.

"Producers spoke to scores of people across the country who applied to make sure a wide range of views were represented. Members of the panel will be informing our output across all platforms with their stories, opinions and questions.

"The debate covered a variety of issues which are of significance to voters and which are likely to feature throughout the campaign.

"Ahead of the debate, an explainer giving details on how the audience and questions were selected was published on the BBC Scotland news site."