IN a year of momentous fakery – from a Brexit campaign built on lies and half-truths to Nigel Farage’s race-hate immigration poster and Donald Trump’s post-truth US Presidential election victory – this week saw new levels of distortion in the British media.

The latest twist came when it emerged that the audience producer – a job-title with more than a whiff of Orwell about it – for the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme, Question Time, had been sharing posts by far-right groups and had in the past claimed responsibility for putting a loud-mouthed unionist in the crowd during an edition of the show on the issue of Scottish independence. The concern is that Alison Fuller Pedley, who works for Glasgow-based Mentorn Media, was allowing her political beliefs to influence her professional life – and in doing so distorting the experience and tone of BBC Question Time, a show that is held by many to reflect back to us through the prism of television who and what the nation represents.

The issue kicked-off when it was noticed that Fuller Pedley was sharing Britain First posts on social media. Fuller Pedley shared five of the far-right group’s Facebook posts calling for support of the armed forces and the wearing of the poppy. She also liked a page called British Patriotic Front. Both Facebook pages carry extreme racist and ultra-British nationalist content.

In a year when Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered; in a year when Gina Miller was threatened and abused for bringing the legal case against Brexit to the courts; and in a year when the judges hearing that same case were vilified and MPs labelled traitors for voting against leaving Europe, to have someone in a such a high-profile position influencing the nation’s view of itself is extremely serious. The political debate has never been more toxic and the existence of fake news has shifted from the corners of conspiracy theory to the front page. In light of all that, the conduct of the BBC in this instance is frankly disgraceful.

The BBC responded to the concerns with the following statements: “The Question Time audience is always chosen by a team to ensure broad political balance and each application goes through the same rigorous background checks. Any suggestion to the contrary is misleading. The BBC has clear impartiality guidelines covering the use of personal social media – this freelance producer and the rest of the programme team have been reminded of their responsibilities.”

They added that: “Alison has reassured her managers that the posts were shared unwittingly and she was unaware of their wider context.”

This answer would have you believe that the audience producer for Question Time doesn’t know who Britain First – probably the most high-profile fascist group in the UK – are. This response lacks credibility.

This trend is not new however. The role of the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme in fomenting the views of the far-right has been under examination since the BNP’s Nick Griffin was given a slot on the show in 2009. The BNP called it the “biggest single recruitment night in the party’s history”. Just this week Nigel Farage enjoyed his 32nd appearance – on a panel that included Louise Mensch, a former Tory politician and now right-wing social media commentator, as well as another Conservative MP.

This week my website, Bella Caledonia, revealed that Question Time’s appearance in Tory-held Sutton Coldfield in September was due to Fuller Pedley’s connections to Ukip. Paul Long, reportedly a Ukip supporter, claimed: “Back in November I had the idea of seeing if BBC Question Time could come to the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield to mark the formation of the UK’s largest town council. Fortunately, I knew the audience producer, Alison Fuller Pedley, and she was very keen to see what she could do.”

The spectacle of audiences watching highly imbalanced panels discuss a narrow political agenda is the height of manipulation – and it has a Scottish context. Many will recall the passionate if - at least in my view - unhinged unionist-supporting audience member who appeared on the show that was broadcast from Inverness during the independence referendum. Fuller Pedley later tweeted: “Did you like my Highlander – great guy #bbcqt”. This revelation reflects the trend for outsourcing news and current affairs production which reduces transparency and accountability. In their statements, the BBC seem to be simultaneously hiding behind and throwing Mentorn/Fuller Pedley under the bus. This isn’t about one individual, it is about a lack of openness in the BBC and its associated companies. It’s about the subtle normalisation of the far-right as we as a country stagger forward in blame and bigotry.

This week it was revealed that Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, would be among the D-list stars on Celebrity Big Brother 2017. It isn’t a show known for its good taste, but adding Eric Bristow, John McCririck and Katie Hopkins, and now Fransen, in with the glamour models and YouTubers is a recipe for toxic right-wing clickbait. Also this week, the Evening Standard ran a feature called Meet the Fascie Pack, highlighting the pivotal role of a group of far-right media operators “with impeccable grooming and incendiary views”. The “pack” includes Tomi Lahren, Milos Yiannopoulos and Owen Shroyer. This is a new wave of right-wing commentators spouting hatred, conspiracy theories and vitriol-laced fake news, not a hip new in-gang as the story would have you believe. Expect them on your screens soon.

There have been many who have shrugged at the BBC Question Time revelations with world-weary cynicism. “Who cares?” they said. “Doesn’t everyone know the BBC is corrupt/bias/useless?” went the argument. But the wider reaction has been real upset at the failure of the BBC – which we are all compelled to support – to hold an honest pubic debate around the momentous and potentially catastrophic events we are encountering. In the face of the rise of an extreme British nationalism we need a media which can tell the difference between a poppy campaign and a fascist rant.