Excerpt from article "Power to the people, log on" by Graeme Blundell in the Weekend Australian Review -
Recognising the changed environment, the ABC, under experienced producer Peter McEvoy, has developed Q&A, an hour-long interactive public affairs program. And a timely experiment in public democracy it is, too. Each week, Lateline's Tony Jones will wrangle with five panellists facing questions on topical issues from an invited studio audience as well as from viewers, who can send in their questions via the internet or by SMS. "We'll pluck the best out of the stream and pass them in to the live show through a producer and on to Tony," McEvoy says. He says the panel will feature a broad range of personalities, from the sort of commentators who appear on The Insiders to the smart, sneering mouths that could once be heard on The Glass House. "I think all journalism should be relevant and engaging: big-issue stuff should grab our attention," McEvoy says. People who fancy themselves as entertaining inquisitors and political agitators can register on the show's website, deposit some general information and hopefully await a producer's call. "We are after an audience who comes along not simply to watch but to participate; that's the game," McEvoy says.
What he is working from is the idea that in the era of blogging consumers are demanding more independence and power from TV. Consequently, news consumption is fast becoming less of a prepared, pious-sounding lecture and more of an open dialogue. And, increasingly, the role of the TV journalist will be that of an authenticator and interpreter rather than a gatekeeper of knowledge. Jones is an inspired choice for this role. He's one of the few TV journalists able to sort through an avalanche of information and identify what we might be able to trust. He is also the suavest presenter on the box, with a James Spader kind of insouciance. Many women of my acquaintance tell me they admire his polished assurance and dextrous articulateness. As a performer he certainly embodies a sense of the authentic mind, something we rarely see on local TV.He understands implicitly that the key to success lies in making viewers believe they are on a footing, with the greatest intimacy, with everything and everybody.Just watching him work is entertaining. He makes all sorts of calculations and computations on the run, often mid-sentence, without seeming to engage the main parts of his brain. Then he announces with that sardonic half-smile the results of his deliberations as though they were self-evident.I've always admired the way he allows his quick mind to pantomime an incapacity for accepting simple conclusions. "Let's look at this, then, shall we?" he will suddenly snap. Or: "I'm sorry, this is not the argument here." You always know he's getting dead serious when he suddenly says, "Let's not mince words, shall we?"Jones will need his full repertoire of broadcast tricks on Q&A, which McEvoy admits might turn out to be full-on interactive studio madness. Many programs have tried to incorporate viewers' contributions, McEvoy says, but they have generally been entertainment shows such as Big Brother and Australian Idol. "But for us the possibility presents the opportunity to get the show out of the studio into a broader audience, and offers accessibility to those watching from home," he says.This is the big experiment for McEvoy, and he is after an urgency, immediacy and topicality not found in other current affairs shows. "Though it's a case of let's start and see what happens," he says slowly, aware of the risks he runs, especially on the legal front. I'm looking forward to his show. We've never really had a chance as viewers to say, live on TV, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more."
Q&A, Thursday, 9.35pm, ABC. http://www.abc.net.au/quandahttp://www.theaustra...5015662,00.html