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UPDATED | ABC in full panic mode as Q+A faces the axe

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With a move to Thursday night, an unpopular choice of host, and the ratings hitting rock bottom, Aunty looks for…feedback…

After a diabolically low 233,000 viewers nationally (165,000 5CM/68,000 Regional) for Thursday’s edition of Q+A, the ABC has moved swiftly to try to understand why the audience is no longer tuning in.

TV Blackbox has learned on Friday all members of the online feedback group “YourSpace” received an invitation asking them some very specific questions about Q+A including “What do you think of the host?” and “Is the show getting better or worse?”.

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TV Blackbox understands the YourSpace surveys ask for feedback on a broad range of shows and topics including viewing habits, though until now the panel have never asked for in-depth feedback on a specific show as they have on Q+A. This is the first time they’ve asked direct questions specifically about a show and its host, and suggests the ABC is re-evaluating the future of the program that once helped set the weekly political agenda.

In 2019 Erin Vincent was appointed the new executive producer of the show after creator and founding EP Peter McEvoy stepped down. Vincent has a solid resume, working as Executive Producer on Insights and ABC Breakfast in the past, however the program has struggled since that time.

The program’s lowest ratings previously were 168,000 5CM from March this year after an episode hosted by Virginia Trioli. The week before was its previous lowest, with 175,000 5CM for an episode chaired by now permanent host Stan Grant.

The live panel show (which encourages live social media commentary) has seen its ratings crash after the move in 2021 from its flagship Monday 9:35pm spot to Thursday 8:30pm, and the revolving host role after original host Tony Jones was replaced by Hamish Macdonald who served from January 2020 and quit in July 2021 due to trolling from social media. The revolving trio of hosts was implemented as a result.

Last month Grant was appointed sole host after sharing the role with Trioli and David Speers for most of 2021 and 2022, and was pilloried on the very social media it courts for the decision.

Of the three hosts trialled the episodes with Grant as host were consistently the lowest rating of the three, however all would be considered low in comparison to episodes previously aired in the Monday night timeslot.

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A very angry ABC has been in contact this morning to say:

Q+A’s average national audience is more than 500,000 viewers per program. Recently Q+A started an exciting new chapter, including moving to a single host with Stan Grant. As we said at the time, the team is continuing to explore ways to further develop Q+A, including how to get audiences even more involved.

TV Blackbox’s report of the audience survey is completely wrong. The ABC regularly asks questions about specific programs. These surveys cover a wide range of topics and are designed to help the teams to understand their audience perspectives and refine accordingly. Listening closely to the audience and public at large is at the heart of what the program does.

Note from Rob McKnight: Using a national average and still only getting to 500,000 is desperate spin from the ABC and an attempt to change the narrative that QandA is failing – which it is.

Yes, the ABC does ask for feedback on its programs but our understanding is not generally through the method as described in Steve’s story.

As for the report being ‘completely wrong’ – are the numbers wrong? Is the ABC concerned about the numbers? Is the future of QandA under doubt?

These are the questions we put to the ABC that remain unanswered (except for a snippy response claiming our report was ‘wrong’):

  • Are the ABC concerned about the shrinking ratings for ABC, especially given Thursday night’s was the lowest ever?
  • Will the ABC be renewing Q+A for 2023?
  • Are the ABC happy with the performance of Q+A with Stan Grant as host?
  • Will the ABC be replacing Stan as host of Q+A?

The ABC also complained that we asked questions on a Sunday and did not wait for a response. Unfortunately we cannot trust the ABC to do the right thing as listeners of the podcast will attest – they have spoiled multiple exclusives when approached for comment by releasing the information on social media or issuing a press release.

We stand by the story.

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Know more about this or another Australian media story?

Contact the team anonymously at TV Blackbox

Steve Molk
Steve Molkhttps://tvblackbox.com.au/author-steve-molk/
Steve Molk is sharply focused on the business of TV in Australia across all its formats - FTA broadcast, commercial, subscription, catch up & BVOD. Based on the Central Coast of NSW he's a passionate advocate for Australian-made programming, particularly drama and comedy. He loves podcasting, gaming & watching too much TV. For all media enquiries please call or text 0401-709-405


      • I wonder if you actually watch Q&A or is it too intellectual for you.
        I believe it is well chaired by a very competent person in Stan.

        • Very well said! In my opinion, Stan is a great host, has a broad knowledge and certainly intelligent! Cheers to Stan.

    • Unfortunately ABC has had the football to compete with on Thursday nights hence the drop in viewers.
      Stan is the right man for the job, perhaps better on another evening.

    • I wrouldn’t miss Q&A, The Drum, etc. Very happy with Stan Grant and other anchors, miss Hamish McDonald. Don’t ever want to see the rude, entitled Alexander Downer on any of these panels again. The former LNP government appalled me. I listen to and watch the ABC every day and have no complaints about it.

      • There may be others who disagree with you.
        In a tolerant society we have to learn to argue our point of view…not just sling shots as it seems is your Modus operandi.
        I for one am so sick to death of the woke agenda on the ABC.
        we will only be an intelligent society when we learn to argue our point of view and stop denigrating others..

        • “we will only be an intelligent society when we learn to argue our point of view and stop denigrating others..” and yet you denigrate others as being woke. Total lack of self awareness there but to be expected from RWNJs who think that anyone who disagrees with them is “woke”.

        • I totally agree.
          I stopped watching the ABC after 40 years due to its totally left wing political bias.

  1. So completely biased on all levels..as a Conservative have switched off from all platforms of the ABC! ‘Insiders’ will be the next to go with their completely biased panel & guests👎

    • Totally agree that Insiders will go. If it doesn’t it should. The ABC is not one patch on what we used to see. The ex newscorpse stacked board are trying very hard to make it like the commercial dross.

    • Not too many of you right-wingers around these days!

      However, on another note, time and time again the ABC has been found (by independent assessors from outside the ABC) to be impartial. You must be VERY conservative then!!

      • (by independent assessors from outside the ABC)

        Appointed and paid by the ABC

        I have formed my own opinion. I rarely watch it now.

    • Agree Tony Jones was the best. I did also love Hamish. I think its the topics over covid that have destroyed Q&A. rarely tune in these days

    • Excellent hit the nail on the head. So sad can’t watch my favourite show as it has gone down the drain
      I have sent MANY complaints to ABC about Q & A no response!!!!

  2. Q&A has increasingly become a mouthpiece for the LNP with Murdoch stooges at the helm, constantly interrupting, overtalking and blatantly showing their bias!
    What was once an informative, cutting edge political, and social forum for debate has ascended into rightwing diatribe!!! The best ones have been when NO politicians were guests!!!!

    • Hahaha. Your ABC never gives conservative’s a fair go ! But really Australia doesn’t have a Conservative party anymore! There all looney leftist follow fashion monkeys ruining our country these days following Europe and America downhill to Leftist green new deal stupidity! Q&A was always pathetically bias and Tony Jones was disgusting in his leftist bias. ABC should be defunded and made to pay for itself as a commercial network!

      • What exactly do you mean by “leftist” though?

        If it is “leftist” to have a conscience, or understand what it is not to be blindly fellating Rupert on a daily basis, then I’d be willing to bet that the fossilised f*wits still in Rupert’s target demographic (bigoted, homophobic, ableist turds who GAF about other humans aside from themselves) are well and truly in the minority now.

        Tony Jones & Barrie Cassidy showed us what Q&A and Insiders at their peak could be. Ita’s ABC still thinks ScoNoBrains is in charge (would anyone be surprised if he still thought he was?)

      • Really. It’s going because it panders to the right. It’s failure preceded by the failure of the last useless government which had a free pass on this programme.

  3. Until the Murdoch hacks are removed our ABC will continue to slide. Viewers watched because there was a view alternative to MSM and Murdoch. That has now been lost so there is now no alternative view. Buttrose, Speers, Grant et. al. Must go immediately and our ABC returned to us

    • Completely agree, I just can’t take the ABC seriously when I see Murdoch figureheads hosting “conversational” programs where the conversation is always directed to how Albo supposedly screwed up this week.

    • I was a fan for many years and over the years it addressed all of the hard questions of any political head.
      Now I find it hard to watch

  4. All ABC news and current affair programs are soooo bias towards LNP, the balance is gone,its our taxes that are used to fund it,but when we only get one bias view,it no longer represent all Australians, have stopped watching any of these programs because of this bias,

    • Yes, changing the spot from Monday night when people may have less on than Thursday night, a shopping night for some.

  5. Leftist views from contributors are allowed to progress and rightist views are interrupted. Stan Grant is pretty good.
    The laws on which limit what people can say make for drab television. Authors often bring more dynamics than politicians. David Maher or Germaine Greer. George Pell maybe? The more controversy the more interest. We know how millenials think, we’re bombarded on social media. We oldies want to hear from even older more learned people who have had time to reflect and conclude.Thomas Keneally or Helen Garner? What about the woman who has broken all ceilings….Gina Rinehart….how does she get rich? We poor could do with some tips.

    • Gina was born into wealth. She is interesting only to those who share her conservative views. She spruiks wages for Australians at South African labour rates ,less than $2 an hour. If you find that interesting you should stick with the commercial channels.

      • Gina’s dad was in debt when he died.
        Gina became a miner as opposed to just a prospector and found funding to produce a successful mine without fuss or fanfare and pays big taxes. It’s not necessary to approve to be interested how Gina manages. It’s interesting to know about perspectives from non victims women.

  6. Under the present LNP stacked management the ABC is doomed,in every politically biased show the commentators talk absolute bullshit,talk over people and steer the conversation away from touchy issues that might damage LNP,it is stacked with ex Murdoch hacks,the ABC has lost a lot of great talent the ABC is no longer trusted.

  7. My humble opinion is that Emma Alberici would do a wonderful job in that role, OR as host of insiders, she has the wit and the journalism background.
    Don’t know what she did to get herself off air… but Grant and Speers are skewed in their thinking and political leaning to the detriment of both shows.
    And for gods sake lets have some talent on the panel of insiders for a change not the same old dross

  8. I would watch QANDA with any host but I prefer my Monday viewing of QnA, media watch, Aust story, 7.30 report, News and the Drum.

  9. David Marr, George Pell & Gerard Henderson on together would make for Monday night numbers. Germaine Greer and/or Bettina Arndt – I enjoy watching them stir the pot too.. but it’s all pretty unlikely.

  10. There is much complaint about Murdoch hack and their inherit bias, have whinged myself, but beyond that it is the style of interviewing and comparing from those who have spent much of their career outside the ABC that grates so much, they bombard the discussion too much, often stopping it as it is getting interesting. They are there not as part of the discussion but to facilitate it.

  11. Emma Alberici would be passed over.. after Malcolm Turnbull raising the matter with the ABC Board that someone with an Economics degree should know that companies’ prior year tax losses can be deducted from current year income.

  12. I stopped watching ages ago because of the politicians on the panel pedalling the party line. Boring!

  13. Move it back to Monday. Get some interesting panelists. Then give Stan Grant a few months to build an audience again. If its still floundering it may be time to change the format. I’m an old lefty but I do get a little tired of too many empathetic people.

  14. Let’s just hope that Aunty doesn’t turn the good old Media Watch into a right wing biased hate-fest of all things progressive. Same with Mad As Hell, because if Shaun Micallef is steered clear of lampooning the utter incompetence of all politicians regardless of their party affiliations, we may as all just roll over and die.

  15. Why not move it to Friday as all other channel programs are getting from bad to worse. Love to stay home and watch Q&A if its moved to Fridays.

  16. Most people stopped watching a long time ago apart from the usual ABC lefty idiologists. Now with Stan Grant ( a genuine down the middle commentator) running the show even the lefties are off as well. Result is, because of thei ABCs originally bad left wing bias – now they have no one!

  17. Stan Grant does the best job fo Q&A
    However the annoying thing is the audience always inner melbourne or inner sydney narrow minded lefty woke people who all fail to see the big picture Obviousley get most of their information and questions from biased social media
    Most have not a clue about the wide world
    All shitting themselves about the future
    Why is it most of these people are wimps with virtually no resiliance ,tough times acomin might toughen some up with a bit of luck What is wrong with current this generation

  18. Officially the ABC exists to provide television, radio and online services to all Australians. At the 2022 election the two-party preferred vote was 7 million for the Liberal/National Coalition and 7.6 million for the Australian Labor Party. So it’s reasonable to say that around half of Australian voters are “conservatives”. Clearly their viewpoints and ideas are rarely aired on the ABC, and are not respected or seriously considered. Q+A has been and is one of the biggest offenders.

  19. Thursday’s Q&A ratings are lower because of AFL and NRL games being shown on pay TV and free-to-air at the same time in certain parts of the year

    • Hi Ian – this is a really valuable reminder of why Thursday night is a fraught timeslot for anything that isn’t sport.

  20. Hilarious comments describing Stan Grant leftist. Stan is just another neo liberal with a green tinge. He could rub shoulders with Joe Biden.

  21. The ABC have shot themselves so many times in the foot with Q&A.. first by moving it from the Monday time slot ( where Monday night became ABC night for many with Australian Story, then 4 Corners and leaving it on the ABC channel for Q&A before heading off to the fart sack). Second by giving the permanent hosting to Mr Know-it-all, Chip-on-his-shoulder Stan Grant….how about some of Jeremy Fernandez or one of the up and comers that are not trying to be like Hamish McDonald!! Third keep politicians on the show to a minimum…. preferably not at all…we get enough of their political spin and BS on other media forums.

  22. Could hardly ever bear to watch Q and A but did watch sometimes.

    But with Stan Grant???

    It’s all about ME, what I think and what I want to say and have you asked what they all think of ME?”

    Ludicrous that such a time-slot is dominated by such a self opinionated bore

  23. The ABC only asks ABC viewers what they perceive as the problem with Q&A. The ABC would get more informative feedback if it asked those that no longer watch the ABC! The ABC used to be a highly respected news provider. Now it’s become a left propaganda outlet, that preaches about climate change and other woke obsessions, but never airs information outside of the leftist narrative. Actually, the best news source now is Al Jazeera!

  24. Ask the swinging voters for their take on the ABC’s blatant smug bias with anything green, racial, lgbtiqa+, Albo, Wong, or other dieties, and you have the answer to poor ratings. Most citizens can accept slight lefty leaning from the ABC as standard operating proceedure however, the vehicle of Australian public broadcasting required a serious wheel alignment post Howard. You should always get a wheel alignment when you change tyres, the ABC has no grip with mainstream Australia.

  25. Stan is a national treasure , we need him, he does a great job.
    I was just thinking how good the show was getting lol.
    Decades ago Thursday night was alternate music night , Rock Arena.

  26. Q&A as a show, will soon be completely redundant – now that Albo has solved the Climate Emergency, the Gender Pay Gap and Child Poverty.

  27. Q and A doesn’t report both sides of the topic it only has guest’s from one side of the topic.how can you have a fair debate like that with only one side represented thats how all of the ABC shows have become.after the election and there bias towards labour I stopped watching it.

    • So how come people watch/listen to crap like Sky and 2GB. Now that’s REAL and consistent continued bias !

      • You obviously never watch Sky, where they have a range of views presented. Sure conservative view predominate, but that is what we pay for.

  28. I am not sure that Q&A is the real problem. It is simply that the ABC is too saturated – in fact dripping with Current Affairs programmes. 7.30, Four Corners, Q&A, the Drm the Insiders and almost 24/7 news. During the catastrophes happening both locally and globally, I need a break from despair and sadness. It is not unusual for me to switch to repeats of Lewis, Escape to the Country or some other mindless, escapist delight. Perhaps if you change the formula of Q&A and include some light relief. I might watch it more. I do find Stan Grant a bit self indulgent. Insiders has almost taken the place of Sunday Mass. I certainly get more out of it than the former. Lighten up aunty – the world is way too sad and stressful without you adding to it

  29. I thought it was just me, I’ve literally switched off ‘watching’ News, Insiders, The Drum, all current affair programs including Q&A – I now read ABC news to keep up. It’s got something to do with a fairly recent but overwhelming general journalist cringe factor similar to politicians cringe factor (its improved on both counts since the election; however, the complicit, personality cult gotcha damage is done). Thank God for streaming- it’s so bad I suspect it’s a cultural cringe I’m experiencing, I even prefer to binge Korean soapies to Western style dramas. Feels to me we in the Western world are infected with a far more serious pandemic than Covid, I’m calling it, “white, self-entitlement dysphoria”. The one journalist I can watch is Miriam Corrowa- she simply tells the news with dignity and professionalism, no artificial smiles, laughter, projections – easy listening and watching. Pip Courtney on Landline I can watch too. They don’t impose themselves or their opinions.
    PS re Q & A it’s demise may be to do with a general boredom with personalities giving their opinions trying to outdo each other with their personalities and brilliance , nothing to do with the host. I couldn’t watch Tony Jones either at present. I’m truly, deeply detached.

  30. Kids arguing with kids. Overpaid Wankers who disregard us because they get free grog and get their faces on tv being over paid Wankers. This waste of public broadcasting is not a wake up to the Australian people this is a farce. Sack them all

  31. I think Stan’s doing a great job. For me the problem is the emasculation of the topics from a weekly politics base it was originally to a mixture of often non political themed subjects, such as the cost of living or sports.

  32. OMG. How cross we all are over our taxpayer-funded public broadcaster. Just turn off Auntie as I did a long time ago and curl up in your favourite chair with a good book. Makes for much happier evenings than watching overpaid, self-congratulatory, smug, preachy ABC personnel who call themselves journalists. Most of them haven’t a clue as to the role of a journalist. I do not include Geraldine Doogue in this little critique as I do sometimes sneakily turn her on on a Saturday morning.

  33. An unfair , cheap shot at Stan Grant and the ABC .Q &A is obviously a threat to anyone averse to object debate .

  34. Here’s what happened to the QandA brand: the show started out OK, then it got taken over by the cultural marxist identity politics crowd at the ABC and went woke, pissing off most of its audience, leaving it pandering to Australia’s leftist inner-city elites for a few years. It became a laughing stock. Then they tried to salvage it, which hasn’t brought back the mainstream audience and has pissed off the lefty luvvies who’ve lost another one of their ideological pet programs. Yawn. Just run the whole ABC as a basic national service network doing the content that the commercials can’t do economically (where the market fails is the only place the govt should step in) with essential programing only. Splinter off another lefty channel but make it self-fund with sponsors and donors. Two TV channels and two radio channels only. The ACCC should look into how the ABC has a grossly unfair market advantage (no ads) and should not be allowed to compete with commercial networks. It’s stuffing up the industry. It’s a barrier to entry for others who want to set up talk/info channels, it’s stifling industry growth and has become a “closed shop” of people who all approve of each other and share the same political, social, economic and creative approaches. Taxpayers shouldn’t be funding a club for a small group of self-appointed media elites answerable to nobody but themselves. The internal currency of promotion and job opportunity becomes solely political, not merit based and is open to corruption.

  35. Stan is a good host , as have been Virginia , David & Hamish. The problem is with the trolling — it poisons the well. Why they need the create a dark atmosphere around a discussion show is anyone’s guess.

  36. Always thought Tom Switzer was the obvious choice for host…but the woke ABC wouldn’t dream of using him.

    Also thought that they had too many guests on the program…that didn’t allow the guests to “flesh out” their arguments, two guests at most.

    Have a look at David Frosts interview of Oswald Moseley to see compelling tv.

  37. Great that you stand by you story but it’s small beer, isn’t it?
    During the last 2 decades critical journalism has collapsed in Australia across the board.
    The ABC has been infiltrated & white-anted by Howard era culture warriors, Vanstone & Switzer, and partisan Murdoch hacks, Speers & Karvelas.
    Buttrose has run the public broadcaster off the rails & into the ground.
    Does your puny article represent journalism’s recovery or its salvation or just more of the same?

  38. There was a time when I only ever watched their ABC. Now about all I ever watch is the 7.00 News (In WA it about the only news that covers WA).

    As for Q + A I gave up on it some time ago. Even gave up on Gardening Australia this year. Just cannot take the constant Climate change, pro “Black lives matter” and ALP propaganda. All I ask for is some balance but that just does not happen.

  39. We live in a time when many can’t bear news…no wonder the great contents on Q&A ‘interferes’ with utubes on funny cats? The stature of Stan Grant, informed, well-read and with great reasoning skills, does great and measured job to help us hear different opinions. Very few places in the world have a space where the reasoning of opposites occur in real time, and people indicate how well (or not )they listen/ change when the substance of the view-point helps them and us as the audience understand depth and complexity at broader level. Democracy is so much more than voting once every three years, it asks us to read widely, listen deeply and be engaged…that is thus the strength of Q&A. Keep it up Stan, you are doing a great job!

  40. This is all passionate on both sides, but the big picture is that the younger demographic are increasingly not watching broadcast television at all.

    • Hi Steven – this is true, however they are using BVOD and catch-up a whole lot more than their parents/grandparents. Live streamed TV is on a significant increase. I’d offer it’s the content that is the concern.

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