What’s wrong with ABC’s once-powerful Q + R, and how to fix it

But an insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the problem was not too many politicians but too few. “It is a program on the empowerment of power. It’s not just a program of ideas, ”they say. “Unless you were offering something different and distinctive – which you were – this is just a premium version of Battery. People say they prefer the show without politicians, but unless you deliver it, what’s the point of difference. You really want someone who has the power to make decisions, then you can ask “what would you do about it?” “”

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Dr Alex Wake, head of the journalism program at RMIT, used to assign his students the task of watching the show as part of their coursework and regularly held tweeting sessions early on. Now, “I hate to say it, but it got tired.”

Part of the problem is Twitter itself. Once so promising as a platform for political engagement, it has now “become a dastardly place,” says Dr Wake. At the same time, the show itself has become more timid.

“They tried to tone down the controversy,” she said. “Before, they had a talent in place to create a very strong conflict, to make good television. They came and were very happy to train, and saw that as their role. Now we have no more Cardinal Pell against Richard Dawkins. It removes some heat. “

It is no coincidence, says the insider, who maintains that the switch from the Television Division’s reporting lines to News in the wake of the Zaky Mallah affair in 2015 was an attempt to appease the government and had a continued impact on the show’s willingness to take risks. It can be politically and managerially astute, but it doesn’t necessarily produce great content.

Switching to Thursdays and an earlier time slot didn’t help. As Dr Wake observes, “This is athletic training time for anyone with children.” It’s also true that Thursday evenings attract weaker audiences across the board, which means Q + A was still likely to experience a downturn, although it was hoped that it would attract a larger share of a smaller audience into the new niche.

But the ABC claims it is happy with the numbers. According to a spokesperson, the show’s national average audience for 2021 (including regional viewers) is 455,000, up 13,000 on iview. “We commit to Thursday evenings,” Vincent insists. “It takes time to fall asleep in the changing slots, and the trend of the public [in recent weeks] is positive.

Either way, the broadcaster suddenly finds itself with an opportunity to tinker. For now, he claims to be attached to the approach of the rotating hosts, but the idea of ​​a female front Q + A must surely hold the call. Virginia Trioli, a regular host, would be a good permanent choice if it weren’t for the logistical challenge of also hosting a morning radio show. Patricia Karvelas and Leigh Sales are also strong candidates for the role.

Could Virginia Trioli be a possible Q + A host?Credit:Luis Ascui

But as the series creator and founding executive producer Peter McEvoy said last year, “when Questions and answers does its job, the staff does not matter. They are just there to spread the net.

It should also be borne in mind that the past 18 months have produced the most difficult circumstances the show has ever faced, with a live audience largely banned and guests frequently limited to video appearances due to the pandemic. , which also dominated the discussions.

“Once COVID stole part of the show’s raison d’être – the live audience that gave it its energy and its raison d’être – it was doomed and obviously never recovered. Observes Neil McMahon, who has regularly covered the show for this pole for years and judges it as “pretty terrible” shows from last year with no audiences. “Add in the change of host, executive producer, time slot and streaming competition and it was a perfect storm. I’m not sure any program can survive it.

And so maybe the real answer to how to fix Q + A is twofold: give it more spine and give it more time.

Assuming we never got over this pandemic, we might again have a wider range of talking points than locks and vaccines. Customers will once again be able to travel easily between states. And a live audience armed with questions can be a part of the show again.

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