BBC bosses have been challenged on data showing Question Time panels are “massively unbalanced” in favour of right-wing voices.

BBC director-general Tim Davie and David Jordan, the broadcaster’s director of editorial policy, were quizzed on the issue by MPs on Westminster’s Media Committee on Wednesday.

Dr Rupa Huq, a Labour MP, challenged the pair on figures recording Question Time panellists in 2022 and 2023.

She said: “One barometer people have of impartiality is the panels that you see on Question Time.

READ MORE: Why BBC's choice of Question Time panellists in Glasgow is an outrage

“For the last full year that figures are available, apparently there were 28 panellists from non-dom or foreign-owned, overseas billionaire, media outlets, 28 of those – and only six from centrist or centre left. I'm counting from Private Eye to the Daily Mirror, Novara and Vice media.

“Doesn't that look massively unbalanced?”

Responding, Jordan said he was “totally unaware of that data”.

He went on: “I'd be very interested to see it, but all I know is that the Question Time team, which is incredibly expert in this, spends a lot of time spinning a lot of plates in the air trying to make sure that its panels are gender representative, are ethnically diverse, are geographically disparate, are socioeconomically representative, are politically representative of all of the different political parties in the country, plus all kinds of other factors that weigh into their decision about who's on the panels – quite apart from whether or not the people concerned are actually good at being on panels or not.

“So, all of those factors are taken into account on a weekly basis and over time,  the Question Time team aspires to get a genuinely representative range of people with all sorts of different views on their panel.”

The BBC editorial policy chief added that he would be “very, very happy to have a look at [the data] and see whether there's any inherent bias in what they're doing”.

The National: Tim Davie director-general at BBC. (House of Commons/UK Parliament)

Director-general Davie (above) then interrupted: “[The Question Time team] also look at the long-term data. So it's worth just looking at the data just to make sure, in terms of in the round, because that's 34 people out of a lot.

“So we need to have a look at it in the round. I don't want to dismiss the data. I'm just saying there is … they work extremely hard on a database approach, so we should look at that.”

Huq then challenged the two BBC executives on further figures showing a similar tendency towards platforming the right-wing.

The Labour MP said: “Six trade unionists. So these are people who represent millions and millions of working people. But 13 business people. You know, the man from Sainsbury's, the man from Iceland. You see them pop up every week. Six trade unionists only. It doesn't look right.

“Again, you said political balance. If you think about it, the Green Party are in power in Scotland. They have one MP in this place [Westminster]. I'm sure we don't see them as much as the 35 appearances Nigel Farage has done. [Reform UK’s Richard] Tice comes on a lot. Do you know what I mean?”

Responding, Jordan claimed: “You're talking about the numbers of appearances by Nigel Farage over a very, very long period of time.

“If you totalled up all of the Green Party appearances over that same period of time, I'm sure it will come to a significant number as well.”

In 2017, HuffPost analysed seven years of Question Time shows. It found that Farage and his Ukip party had been represented on 24% of all broadcasts – with 15 different spokespeople appearing.

The Greens, by comparison, had three spokespeople feature in a total of 7% of broadcasts.

In 2019, figures claimed that over 10 years and 50 appearances from MEPs, Question Time had only platformed Brexiteers, with not a single Remainer for balance

Figures collected by author Steve Paxton for 2022 showed a significant bias towards right-wing panellists from media outlets, as well as for politicians not elected to Westminster, Holyrood, or the Senedd.

Paxton wrote at the time: “Twenty-three appearances for right-wing media, but only two for the left. Fifteen employers but only five representatives of employees. A single Green MP, but two appearances for a politician who was paid £20k a month by a fossil fuel company while he was an MP [Nadhim Zahawi].

“It’s pretty difficult to reconcile these with the idea that the BBC’s flagship political debate programme retains any semblance of balance.”

Huq further challenged the BBC executives on appearances from far-right columnist Melanie Phillips (who she said had been on Question Time 28 times) and TalkTV host Piers Morgan (23 times).

Huq said: “I know you want shock-jock people for a bit of value who say something controversial, but still, you do have in your charter ‘educate, inform, entertain’ ... So, I think that [data] would be worth taking away and looking at.”

Jordan responded: “Well, certainly if you've got data which I haven't seen or which the Question Time team haven’t seen I would certainly be happy to take it to the Question Time team to ask them to talk about and if necessary, even drop you a line and explain where they're coming from.”