An independent review into the ABC’s Q&A program is expected to instruct the broadcaster to remove the feed of “live tweets’ that currently appear during broadcasts, when the show is moved into the ABC News Division.
The review, currently being undertaken by former managing director of SBS, Shaun Brown and television journalist, Ray Martin was commissioned before the now infamous Zaky Mallah appearance, and is examining various editorial policies on the program including balance.
One of the reviews terms of reference is to report on social media strategy, including on-air tweets. Since the review was commissioned, the Board of the ABC has made the decision to move the program from its current home in the Entertainment division into the News and Current Affairs division, a move that will see the program conform to strict guidelines for balance, fairness and accuracy. Q&A will make this change at the beginning of the 2016 broadcast year.
It is expected that the review will recommend the removal of the twitter feed, given the live nature of the program and it being impossible to verify the accuracy and authenticity of the social media accounts that currently contribute to the program. Several senior producers within the ABC’s News Division are understood to have already expressed their concerns regarding live social media interaction conforming to editorial news guidelines.
The live twitter feed has been credited for generating considerable viewer interest in Q&A, but has also been criticised for a number gaffes including the broadcast of inappropriate usernames including TJonesPussyKing, Penisbandit69, and last night AbbottLovesAnal.
While Twitter regularly boasts at how well its service has been adopted by mainstream media, the company has been slow to roll-out its verified user program meaning broadcasters including the ABC have no way of proving the authenticity of tweets they broadcast.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has again expressed his concern at the editorial processes behind Q&A telling journalists today, "I just hope that the ABC management get on and do what they said they were going to do with that program.
"I think it is a bit out of control and I think it's important for the ABC not just to talk about tighter management structures, tighter management control on that particular program, but actually do it.
An article in todays Crikey media section reveals Q&A uses its own custom software called TweeVee TV to filter the +30,000 tweets the program receives during a typical broadcast. While the software scans the body of the message it does not scan the username. Tweets deemed interesting are then quickly analysed by two producers whom have to make fast decisions as to what’s appropriate for broadcast.
The Brown/Martin review will be finalised and released to the public in coming months.