One of the bigger stories in the Republic we didn’t quite get to this week was the news that RTE’s long running current affairs programme Questions and Answers is to bite the dust in June. Shane in yesterday’s Irish Times was scathing about the show’s format:
The shows high ratings have propped up a format that grew mouldy many years ago. It had become predictable, with its weekly panel of two politicians, a journalist, a lawyer and someone from a topical interest group, each of whom had been briefed about the questions well before they needed to deliver the answers. Its audience, as the show acknowledges every week, is loaded with members of political parties and interest groups. I remember when researchers used to run over from Montrose to the UCD bar in the hope of encouraging a few students to go along and fill seats. Im not sure if that still happens, but the directors weekly insistence on seeking out a good-looking audience member betrays its desperation for touches of youthful glamour.
You couldnt have that on the National Broadcaster because you are in the realm of Official Ireland and it would be considered unseemly. What a pity. Browne also draws from a wider pool of journalists for his panel whereas Q&A tends to bring on the same faces and there is a tendency to prefer right-of-centre media commentators.
It doesnt sound like RTE is going to go for a new format with its replacement for Q&A. Perhaps there will be a greater emphasis on yoof (youth) which is a longstanding and traditional slogan among executives right across all branches of the media who have no other ideas rolling around in their heads.
Of Browne’s show, Shane notes:
It goes out later at night, and carries on through the week, but by overlapping it has provided useful comparisons. For instance, although there may be room for audience participation in some way or other on a current affairs show, Brownes programme shows that you dont need ordinary people present to reflect the public mood.
Indeed… which gives me an idea…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty