The Big Questions is a faith and ethics television programme usually presented by Nicky Campbell. It is broadcast live on BBC One between 10:00am and 11:00am on Sunday, replacing The Heaven and Earth Show as the BBC’s religious discussion programme.
The format is loosely based on BBC1’s political discussion show, Question Time, though it also contains elements that are more familiar to daytime chat shows. In the first four series, each show featured four panellists from a range of different religious and ethical perspectives, as well as a number of contributors from the live studio audience. In Series 5, the panel was dropped, and the debates took place entirely within the audience, which still featured a number of contributors.
Each week, panel and audience debate three ethical, moral or religious topics which featured in the week’s news.
Panellists have included notable atheist Richard Dawkins, convert to Roman Catholicism Ann Widdecombe, Imam Ibrahim Mogra, Muslim commentator Mohammed Ansar, Scottish philosopher John Joseph Haldane, Bible scholar Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Lord Carey, Jonathan Bartley, Peter Hitchens, Alexander Goldberg, Ian McMillan, Andrew Pinsent, Stephen Law, Tommy Robinson, Michael Nazir-Ali, Samuel Westrop and Decca Aitkenhead.
The programme used to have a slot for a celebrity interview in which a famous person talks about their life and their moral, ethical and religious beliefs and interests. Such celebrities have included Richard Dawkins, Annie Lennox, John Barrowman, Benjamin Zephaniah, John Simpson and Jamelia. In the second series this section was dropped, and the whole programme instead concentrates on the three discussions.
The programme is currently in its eighth series, which began in January 2015.
Nicky Campbell has presented the show since it began in 2007. Campbell was initially joined by Sonia Deol during the first 14 episodes of series one in February 2008. Deol no longer appeared after this and without explanation.
During series 3 in June 2010, Campbell was absent from the programme. Kaye Adams guest presented the programme on these dates. Campbell then returned from his absence to present the final show in July 2010.
The programme is produced for the BBC by Mentorn Media (owned by Tinopolis).
From July 2010, The Big Questions’s breaks and its slot was filled with a new studio-based religious and ethics discussion programme, Sunday Morning Live hosted by Naga Munchetty (formerly Susanna Reid, Samira Ahmed and Sian Williams). The Big Questions still runs January – July, Sunday Morning Live runs July – November.