The results of the review of the ABC’s Q&A are in – and the report states that the program is not a “lefty lynch mob” as described by former PM Tony Abbott, but warns against complacency and that host Tony Jones should be careful not to “overreach” in his questioning.
The review was commissioned by the ABC and conducted by TV journalist Ray Martin and former SBS Managing Director Shaun Brown, who scrutinised 23 episodes, almost second by second.
According to the report, “The most commonly expressed criticism is that the program lacks impartiality and maintains a left wing anti-Coalition bias. We believe, after close analysis, this general impression is not substantiated.
“The program tends to provide a platform for critical (sometimes even hostile) scrutiny of the Government’s performance.
“But, significantly, that negative focus – evident through the public and moderator questions, the panel commentary and the reaction of the studio audience and the Twitter stream – was applied in similar measure to the ALP when it was in Government in 2012.”
The review pointed out a few times where Tony Jones possibly overreached during questioning of his guests, but stated that, “more often than not, his occasional interjects and asides are appropriate and effective, adding piquancy to the discussions without being disruptive or intrusive.”
The report claims that members of the Government appearing on the program should be able to hold their own under audience questioning.
“The persistent challenging of the Government of the day is not only inevitable, but also desirable,” the report said. “Q&A functions not only as an arm of the Fourth Estate, with its attendant responsibilities to hold accountable those who exercise power, but it is also an important conduit for direct public participation in that process.
But even though the report found the program fault-free, it suggested that it should not allow for complacency.
“The focus on the Government of the day, although challenging, does not in our view breach ABC standards on impartiality. But it does place on the Q&A team a responsibility to ensure such scrutiny does not overwhelm other legitimate perspectives on the program.”
In what many may feel an unexpected twist, Mr Martin believes the worst bias on Q&A was actually against women.
“When you look at the number of panellists who are on the program, usually five a week, 21 of the 23 programs we looked at had three men and two women on the panel, and then Tony Jones on the panel,” he said. “The end result is the belief that women’s opinions are less important than men, which of course is wrong.”
There were also concerns over how many episodes are filmed at the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters in Sydney, with the report saying the location “undermines the program’s claim to represent ‘democracy in action'”.
Mr Martin also feels the show could use some younger guests, as there were not many guests under 35 years.
ABC chairman James Spigelman has welcomed the report, saying, “It makes a number of recommendations designed to enhance Q&A‘s role as a home for important, national conversations,” Mr Spigelman said. “This review will help the Q&A program build on its current high standing and performance.”
Read more at The Sydney Morning Herald
What do you think of the results of this review? Do you agree with the findings?