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Friday, 9 October 2015

The verdict on Nine's The Verdict is in: it's a flop

I have to be honest to start with and say that I only watched about 20 minutes of the program before switching off and going to bed to read a book. I was tired and the program was frankly a disappointment, a conclusion others also came to: this from Fairfax and this from the Guardian echo my own feelings. It was basically a shout-fest with lots of ranty bits from promised loudmouths Mark Latham and Jacqui Lambie.

The only coherent participant seemed to be Anne Aly from Curtin University - who was recently also in the news talking about the #freekaren episode - as she is an expert on extremism generally. Watching her being mansplained by Latham was just painful. No participant was given free air to enable them to make their points and all had to fight for space in the broadcast against the most vocal members of the panel. Karl Stefanovic had none of Tony Jones' gravitas and was signally unable to stop people being talked over.

What the ABC did with #qanda of course was to build their program slowly from a low base into a successful franchise. The ABC are able to do this with new show ideas because they don't have the same commercial imperatives making decisions about which shows get to air. So they let things ride and slowly gain traction with the community and tweak the variables until they arrive at something solid. Channel Nine has apparently tried to fast-track this process because they can't afford to run something on the channel that doesn't have enough viewers. The result is this dog's breakfast.

The ABC has fine-tuned its program #qanda over years to the point where they can change small variables - such as switching panel members, or inviting a certain kind of question from the audience, or letting a certain kind of tweet onto the screen during the broadcast - in order to create substantial effects in viewer reaction. Their careful strategy and their use of panel moderation - so different from what resulted in Channel Nine's shouty ranting - has resulted in a program that people can trust. It seems that you can't easily replicate this kind of experience because The Verdict is a complete failure on all levels.

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