The ABC plans to radically revamp its Q&A public discussion program to bring it more in line with the national broadcaster’s emphasis on inclusivity.
ABC spokesperson Joan Stoney said all program producers had been directed to embrace the corporation’s inclusivity policy which had the backing of its chair Ita Buttrose.
“This is especially important for programs like Q&A where we need to ensure a wide range of voices and viewpoints are given a chance to be heard,” Ms Stoney said.
“So when the program’s new host Hamish Macdonald opens the first program for 2020 viewers will notice a big change.
“Instead of a panel of six experts, politicians, commentators or other relevant individuals, we will be having a panel of 100 different panelists each week.
“This will guarantee that every edition of Q&A achieves the sort of balanced discussion that’s expected by viewers, especially some very demanding viewers in Canberra.
“Having a panel of 100 means it can always be balanced along the lines of political leanings, gender, indigenous representation, ethnicity, sexual preference, sexual identity, as well as a large range of other criteria.
“Unfortunately Q&A will still run for only 60 minutes every Monday night, but we think Hamish is skillful and experienced enough to make sure every panel member has their say each week.
“If you do the calculation you’ll find each of the 100 panelists will be able to speak for a maximum of around 30 seconds each based on questions limited to four seconds which still leaves around three minutes for Hamish to fill in the hour.
“Based on computer modelling of a 100-strong panel helmed by retiring host Tony Jones we found panelists would be lucky to get three seconds each before being interrupted if he’d continued in the chair under the new format.
“So we’re actually lucky to have Hamish as the new host because as our rehearsals have proved (main picture) there’s a good chance panelists will actually get their half-minute,” Ms Stoney said.