TV & Radio

Oct 24, 2017

Razer: we finally reached peak Q&A

This week's Q&A episode on marriage equality was billed as a “debate” and was boiled down to its noisome essence. Which is to say, it said things that have been already said and said.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

The ABC describes its program Q&A as “democracy in action”. We cannot be sure that Cleisthenes of Athens would agree. I can’t be sure if you agree, but I did take a straw poll yesterday while preparing to review last night’s episode, and found that six out of seven democratic Crikey readers did not much care to even talk about this show.

Sure, the survey had a sample size of seven, was hasty, and did include my dad. Dad was the only survey respondent who said that he usually watched, “But only because it helps me know what you were angry about last week, Blossom” (Yes, my father calls me “Blossom”. It’s lovely and appropriate. Shut up.)

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39 thoughts on “Razer: we finally reached peak Q&A

  1. campidg

    I hope I can still call my daughter Possum when she is in her 40s.

  2. Gwen Clark

    I can’t watch QandA because of the number of times it has aired unopposed transphobic comment. Apparently Magda did ok, which is nice but the airing of outright prejudice as debate is far too much for me. Watching this train wreck of a program masquerading as debate is akin to torture.

  3. zut alors

    Some fair points made, Helen. I watch sometimes but am regularly warded off by the presence of any government minister. The best shows are the panels of scientists,writers or academics, no politicians in coo-ee.

    Helen, please give us your ‘new idea’ : what Q&A alternative do you propose whereby public debate can be aired?

    Without Q&A we’re left with nothing – not in the ABC programme lineup & certainly not ever on commercial TV.

    1. Helen Razer

      Honestly? I think it would be as simple as a true commitment to balance, not just an “equal number of minutes for all the political affiliations we have decided are meaningful”.
      This show is not and could never be a place for truly public debate. Like talkback radio with its carefully selected callers (or, just anyone ballsy enough to call in) this show is not “real”. It is a sample, in its questions posed by the public, only of what particularly riled up people think. Rather like media itself. One way to ensure questions are broader and more randomly sourced would be to seek them out. Not wait for them.
      Mostly. Not so many middle-brow intellectuals on the panel. Some actually decent thinkers for a change. Perhaps a host who is trained to acknowledge their own bias or limited world view.
      We have plenty of decent moral and political philosophers to help them work out the kinks that prevent inclusion. We just need an ABC willing to actually serve our curiosity, not our half-tanked Monday night need for distraction.

      1. gerald butler

        Still, it’s all we have from the ether and the coalition conservatives hate it so it has a redeeming feature. We badly need more satire, piss taking and scorn for the one dimensional robotic politicians we see and hear in the media. A new Rubbery Figures would be a great start.

  4. Rais

    Helen you were right to pick up Szubanski for implying that Aussie-born Karina Okotel was Sri Lankan, (and therefore perhaps just a teeny bit less entitled to have her voice heard?) You could have mentioned that Szubanski herself was not born in Australia. She’s English-born. Aussie Muslims are used to that. Two Aussie hijab-wearing women from my family were criticised loudly in a suburban train for “coming here and trying to make *our* women change the way they dress.” Turned out, when they tackled him, that the loudmouth was English.

    1. Helen Razer

      I understand that live TV is unforgiving, and that Szubanski probably felt under the pump. She didn’t say, “Go back to where you came from”, but it did seem to be an unfortunate moment of weaponised identity.
      We can do this. I know that I sometimes put on my poshest ABC radio voice when enraged by someone sexist with a more ocker accent, for example.
      I guess what we saw was that a member of one cultural group up against it will not always show great kindness to a member of another. If there is an advantage to excluding someone on the basis of their identity, we might use it if we feel that we are in danger.
      I have interviewed Magda a few times, and can say that she is charming. I am sure that she regrets this moment. We all regret this moment in general, though. It’s a terrible thing to be debating about peoples’ lives. Which Q&A permitted, and with no more care, really, than anybody else.
      Sort of my point. This creates ugliness. Which masquerades as “respectful debate”.

      1. Brumus

        I do not think Magda meant that in an offensive way. I thought she was just saying imagine if you were denied a basic right because of an irrelevant characteristic, like being left-handed or a diabetic. Many first-generation Australian proudly refer to the nationality of their parents. I would not be offended if someone were to say “imagine if Greeks were not allowed to marry”. I can tell the difference between that and when a person holding an original of my NSW birth certificate asks “Did you have a driver’s licence in your own country?”, the answer to which is”Five Dock is my own country, you idiot”.

      2. Rais

        I didn’t see the show but all the commentary suggests that Szubanski had the upper hand over Okotel. Your point is good about live TV though. I imagine everyone who appears on live TV would have a few “oh no why did I say that?” moments

  5. Keith1

    I’d like to give my opinion on Q&A, but I watched Lewis instead. I always do. At least it makes me think (though I can never remember what).
    As for Blossom (no I won’t shut up) – it’s very nice. Certainly better than Possum (pace Campidg), given what possums do. It suggests a certain paternal innocence – as though he suspects you grew on a tree. Appropriate, you say. What – fallen woman?

    1. lykurgus

      What the hell have you got against possums? I got a brushtail in my tree – never had a more pleasant neighbour (apart from the bare-eyed corellas and sulphur-cresteds).

      1. Keith1

        Your brushtail is in your tree rather than your roof, which is definitely in its favour.

        1. lykurgus

          I got him a box, put some of his bed in it, and sealed the roof during the wee hours.
          But he will not eat the Ovalteenies.

  6. cp

    I think SBS insight programme is a far better format to use. I got really sick of Q&A years ago. Letting those loud, lying, hypocritical and obnoxious Aus politicians off the hook all the time just pissed me off too much. My TV was in grave danger.

    1. zut alors

      Yes, Insight is a good example, the only one. Part of its success lies in the fact that there is almost never a politician in the studio.

      1. gerald butler

        I wish I had the insight to watch more ‘insight’.

  7. lykurgus

    They call it “Q&A” because Tony can’t spell “Misnomer”
    And Ovaltine promised a flavour-hit that it could never deliver, no matter how many spoons you piled in – hence the release of “Ovalteenies” (lollies MADE of pressed Ovaltine to make it acceptably flavoursome). Remember them?
    Malaysians swear by Milo, btw.

  8. Bert Morris

    “fraid I don’t agree Helen. I watch every week and am enthralled by the show. I find your comments over-the-top and not in accord with the opinions I hear expressed by other watchers. I am grateful that so many people do watch because it signifies to me an audience in search of informed comment and discussion. Would rather people watched The Block?

    1. Helen Razer

      It is my view, Bert, that The Block provides about as much insight. And at least does not pretend to advance debate. But, this is just my view.

      1. craig

        Lols in the office. You’re going to get me fired, Helen.

        1. Helen Razer

          There is to be NO LAUGHING in the workplace! A light mood is inimical to productivity, Craiggles.

  9. Lawrence Mooney

    Couldn’t agree more Blossom. Q&A is a steaming load of shit and for fear of sounding all Bolty should be ripped off the air. I watched for a fleeting moment until they posted a sexist / homophobic tweet and that was enough. Whoever mediates the social media is an absolute dullard. #QandA.

    1. Helen Razer

      Hey, Loz. You owe me a meal.

      1. Lawrence Mooney

        Because you are a force for good I’d happily buy you soup until the planet burns or we all become empowered by a Lisa Messenger self help book.

        1. Helen Razer

          How will I Fight Like a Girl on soup, you monster?

    2. Wallywonga

      Lost any spontaneity it had a long time ago. Needs a bit of Moon mate !!

      1. Helen Razer

        There is not much that couldn’t be improved with a touch of Mooney.

  10. bref

    I must say I usually watch the show. Some shows can be tiresome, others are thought provoking. Last night was more of the previous as most aspects of this debate have been done to death. Two moments stand out for comedic value though. Watching god’s No man trying to argue he and the church aren’t telling all of us, believers or not, how to live our lives is of course laughable and the other moment when Okotel checked it was after 9pm just in case, god forbid, 12 year old children might hear her mention the word ‘masterbate’. Isn’t she aware that these days many 12 yr olds aren’t in bed yet at that time.

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