ABC to continue Q&A Twitter experiment

Live panel debate program will continue to screen Twitter comments as it seeks a way to combine TV and social media audiences

The ABC has flagged it will forge ahead with its screening of Twitter comments on its live interactive talk show Q&A as the broadcaster seeks to find a way to merge social media and television.

Q&A executive producer, Peter McEvoy, told Computerworld Australia that the debut use of the on-screen Twitter comments on Q&A’s Monday 26 April episode followed the build up of a strong Twitter community around the show over the past year to the point where between 5000 and 10,000 tweets were now received per show.

Through broadcasting viewer tweets over the top of the panel discussion, the show hoped to add an extra layer of information and entertainment for all viewers, McEvoy said.

“This is an experiment designed to provide a way for the viewing audience to add their live commentary to the Q&A broadcast,” he said. “We believe the Twitter selections will add an extra layer to the Q&A discussion for all viewers, so we’ll do our best to respond to both the Twitter and non-Twitter viewers to make on-screen tweets a success.”

The screened tweets on the ANZAC Day Special episode had been moderated by two Q&A producers, to ensure they show were balanced and representative, McEvoy said.

“One grabs tweets from the rapidly flowing #qanda stream and passes initial selections to a senior produce,” he said. “The senior producer then chooses the tweets that go to air.

“It’s a complex process which required the development of new software tools to allow us to select the tweets and get them on-screen. We rehearsed the process for a month before last night’s broadcast.”

Live tweeted comments during the show included “How terribly, terribly exciting! Germaine [Greer] and live tweets ON MY TV!” and “The army people are not looking well please with Germaine.”

The show has also published and tweeted a guide to tweeting, which calls for tweets to be concise, timely and on topic, witty and entertaining and to add a fresh perspective to the live panel debate.

“Q&A always looks to represent the widest possible range of views on the program and that applies to the broadcast tweets too,” McEvoy said.

While it was too early to judge the success of the combination of social and old media, the show had experienced strong viewing figures and a large number of tweets, as a result of the experiment, McEvoy said.

He also flagged that the show would continue to run live the Twitter comments in future episodes.

“It’s an experiment but one we think is worth pursuing,” he said. “Many aspects of Q&A have already been adopted by other programs - Sunrise, Today, 7pm - [and] we expect that if we can make on-screen Twitter work then others will adopt it too.”

Earlier this month the ABC also flagged that it would ramp up its iView catch up TV service, expanding content and the number of platforms the service runs on, including the iPad.

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