The ABC has denied it is “dumbing down” its Monday night discussion program Q&A as it auditions potential replacements for Tony Jones who finishes up in the role at the end of this year.
Although many media observers believe ABC News Breakfast co-host Virginia Trioli will succeed Jones, an ABC insider told The Bug the decision was not a foregone conclusion.
The insider said top-secret auditions with test audiences sworn to secrecy had been staged at the ABC’s Sydney TV studios with several potential new hosts.
“Despite what the program’s producers and ABC management say, there has definitely been a shift to having more controversial panellists just because they lift the outrage level and guarantee a fiery discussion even if it’s at the expense of genuine public debate,” the insider said.
“That’s why some of the people already being auditioned for the host job are not that surprising.
“One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has been auditioned but is a long shot. The producers didn’t like the way she followed every question asked by audience members with a directive to them to ‘Please explain.’
“Then when each of the panellists finished their answer she also asked them to ‘Please explain’, even though they just did.
“One Nation’s leader in the NSW Parliament, former Labor leader Mark Latham has been auditioned (pictured).
“Mark was much more interventionist as a host than Tony, who usually lets the discussion run without revealing his own views, even though his many critics say otherwise.
“Mark was definitely more confrontational and often dismissed audience questions by saying things like ‘What a load of shit’ or ‘That’s typical leftie feminazi crap’ or ‘How long did you take to come up with that frogshit Einstein?’ before sitting the questioner down and refusing to let them quiz the panel members. I can’t recall Tony Jones doing that.
“Mark even took on the panel members themselves in some cases, and I mean in a direct and physical way with one needing to be taken to hospital with a broken arm.”
The ABC insider said some unknowns had also been auditioned.
“There was one woman, Stefanie O’Vick, (pictured) who fronted for an audition and was quite professional and seemed like she had done it all before even though she said she hadn’t.
“The option of having two hosts has also been explored and is being given serious consideration.
“The producers have auditioned Queensland Senator Fraser Anning and his nemesis Egg Boy as co-hosts in a whole new format (main picture).
“There’d be no panel as such and each week questions from the floor would be posed to Anning and if the audience doesn’t like his answer Egg Boy gets to egg him again.
“I’m very afraid because the producers are really excited about that one and it may be what they go with in 2020,” the insider said.