Q+A host Hamish McDonald (Image: ABC)

The ABC has once again shown up the commercial free-to-air TV networks with its 2021 line-up and schedule changes.

Instead of concentrating on Sunday to Tuesday, as Nine and Seven are now doing (with Ten focusing to a lesser extent on Wednesdays and occasionally Thursdays), the ABC is looking to spread its meagre resources across as much of the viewing week as possible.

Nine and Seven focus on maximising audiences and revenues on the high tune in nights of Sunday through Tuesday for their mostly “reality” based programming.

News and current affairs, arts, documentaries — the staples of old-fashioned linear TV — have been tossed out at Nine and Seven, as has comedy, especially local.

At least Ten continues with programs like its strongest offering, Have You Been Paying Attention, which is simply breakfast FM radio programming with pictures — cheap and it works.

The ABC’s focus on current affairs with Four Corners and 7.30 in particular drives so much news flow for the organisation’s news programs and for print and other network TV news shows.

For Seven and Nine the rest of the week for much of the year is sport and ratings spakfilla of repeats, second- and third-rate programming from offshore, and in many cases paid-for programming. Except for 60 Minutes and A Current Affair, Nine is out of current affairs.

Seven has abandoned current affairs completely and the occasional “Spotlight” special, a faux long-format version of Sunday Night, has been weak to the point of asking why bother?

For all the commercial networks’ concentration on Monday nights as the second of their three money-making nights, the ABC drains hundreds of thousands of (mostly) older viewers with its news and current affairs line-ups.

Those viewers have money but Nine, Seven and Ten ignore those with attempts to focus on younger to mid-level demos (25 to 54s and the various groups within that range). Tuesday nights have taken up the spillover of ABC current affairs programs, such as Foreign Correspondent. The hole at 9.35pm on Monday nights is still to be filled.

Wednesday night is the ABC’s second-best night with its local comedy line-up (Hard Quiz, Mad As Hell, The Weekly, Rosehaven, repeats of Utopia etc).

But for the past couple of years there has been a reluctance to do anything to perk up Thursdays which has become a dead spot for the national broadcaster. In 2021 that changes with a blast of back to the future programming.

Q+A moves from Monday nights at 9.30pm (which is at the back end of prime time) to Thursday nights at 8.30pm. It started out its life in 2008 at 9.30pm on Thursdays (as a clone of the UK program, Question Time, but a bit more general).

The ABC plans to move Backroads from Monday nights at 8pm to Thursdays where it will share the slot with Foreign Correspondent (moved from Tuesdays). That will be a far more balanced line up and will give viewers a solid non-Netflix/Stan alternative on a night which will be dominated by the NRL on Nine and the AFL on Seven.

Ten has usually used Thursdays for programs like Gogglebox Australia (in two short seasons) and second weekly eps of The Bachelor/Bachelorette).

The ABC’s changes won’t impact Ten’s demo skew towards under 39s, but it will give it a second solid night a week for viewers (mostly above 50) who want to watch news and current affairs.

The rest of the ABC line-up shows more arts programs. The turning of the ABC Kids/Comedy channel into ABC Plus is another clever move which will take on SBS’s weekly collection of docos and oddball programs. The channel will be ABC Kids until 7.30pm when programming changes to arts, culture and documentaries.

Shaun Micalleff’s Mad As Hell is back, and that’s all I am interested in (and Hard Quiz).