Three of the ABC’s highest-profile broadcasting jobs are soon to be vacant, and filling them will be the first big test for new chair Ita Buttrose and the yet-to-be named managing director.
Barrie Cassidy, founding host of Insiders, announced last week that he will retire after the federal election in May; founding Q&A host Tony Jones will leave his program at the end of the year; and ABC Melbourne radio mornings presenter Jon Faine has also announced his retirement.
Q&A is seen to be fading, and a new host (and maybe a new executive producer) could revitalise it. But Faine was one of the few presenters to keep their job without changes in the ABC’s local radio’s presenter shake up, and it’s hard to imagine Insiders without Cassidy. The replacements will mark a changing of the guard at the public broadcaster and getting them right is important, so it’s time to open a book on who will step into the roles.
The current co-host of ABC News Breakfast is back in the chair this week after some time off, and has been tipped for the Q&A gig or the radio job, or even both. She is based in Melbourne but is a regular fill-in host for Q&A. The ABC might be keen to get a woman into the Insiders chair but Trioli is unlikely to be the one — it needs someone with solid connections in Canberra. She’s known to longtime ABC Melbourne radio listeners — she did five years presenting the Drive program (and two years on Mornings in Sydney), and has previously filled in for Faine.
Trioli’s co-host on News Breakfast does plenty of heavy-lifting at the ABC. He’s a go-to for special events like Saturday night’s NSW election television coverage and filled in for ABC Melbourne’s Drive host Raf Epstein last year. So he may be considered for the Insiders or radio jobs — they are both Melbourne-based, as is he.
Radio National’s Breakfast host Fran Kelly is another heavy hitter at the broadcaster, and a favourite for the Insiders job. She’s a regular panellist on the program, but there are doubts that she will be strong enough on the economy for the hosting role.
A hot favourite at the ABC, Karvelas’ star is rising. This year she won a new afternoon program on ABC News, in addition to her Radio National program and podcast hosted with Fran Kelly. Karvelas has filled in as a Q&A host, and is also an Insiders panellist. The Australian has tipped her to replace Jones and Faine.
Ellen Fanning and Julia Baird
The hosts of The Drum this year have proved themselves in the new, longer-format program. Fanning’s extensive presenting experience could make her a contender for the Insiders role, while Baird has filled in as host on Q&A.
Another regular Insiders panellist, 7.30 political editor Laura Tingle’s political knowledge and grasp of the issues are second-to-none. She’s a newbie to television, but has improved as she settles into the television role.
A true upset would be for Sky News’ David Speers to come in to replace Cassidy. Appointing an outsider would rock the boat at the ABC, but Speers’ is both well respected and well connected in Canberra.