“There are good people there and there are people of great conscience there that try to put together panels that are just not just going to be people at each other’s throats, and hopefully people who bring some greater depth of understanding.”
Yet inevitably, Grant said, Q+A often ends up with “pop stars who know nothing about the subject they’re talking about, or frankly politicians who know nothing about the topic they’re talking about”.
‘You put people together to create points of friction. That’s television … but that’s an old model and people are tired of that.’
Stan Grant on why he stepped down as host of the ABC’s Q+A program
Some, including former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, claim the panel’s composition has always been the key factor in delivering a compelling product and Grant said while the show never strayed from the model that made it a success, the format had now become tired and outdated.
“You put people together to create points of friction. That’s television, that’s journalism. But that’s an old model and people are tired of that.”
“That’s why they’re not watching programs, that’s why the readership and listenership of programs has gone.”
Another corrosive factor, according to Grant, is the increased toxicity social media offers up, with the show so closely aligned with it over the course of its history.
“It [social media] can’t be trusted with these conversations.”
Grant adds he has become dismayed with the role politics and politicians play in the modern lives of Australians, noting the most impactful and valuable episodes of Q+A were largely those not featuring politicians on the panel.
“They [politicians] are far too visible. They are not moral guardians. They are there to give commentary, represent constituents, distribute resources, and hopefully help build a better society.”
Grant is hoping that his latest endeavour, out of the public eye, will give him the opportunity to fix contemporary media, which he said is no longer “fit for purpose”.
“I don’t have any horizons left in television or daily journalism. I needed something that made me excited again.”
Grant warned media organisations have cultivated a disdain for intellectualism, an attribute that he said the ABC’s next chair would need to address.
He added that ABC’s next chair will also need to take a philosophical approach to the broadcaster’s role in society, rather than simply believing that being a digital-native will guarantee success.
“I think anyone in that role has to be a very big thinker and a leader beyond just the ABC.”
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