ABC answers the pressing questions

ABC Director of Television Kim Dalton tackles some curly questions from The Age today, several of which have been raised before on this blog by both myself and readers.

On the question of ABC1 deliberately avoiding the competition at 8:30pm Sundays (exhibit A: The Slap) he says, ”It’s unreasonable in many ways.

“It would be bloody-minded to say we are sitting on the best piece of Australian drama and we expect the audience to just be there. A whole range of factors inform when we put a show to air. Thursday night is a drama slot that’s worked well for us.”

While it worked for The Slap and Rake (plus international titles like Silk), both Crownies and The Straits struggled in the slot. But it’s fair to suggest they might have struggled wherever they were, despite both actually having aspects that were very enjoyable.

On the topic of Randling not firing on Wednesdays, Dalton says: ”You want every show you commission to do well.

”We believe in Andrew (Denton). We still feel good about the program. But you’re disappointed when programs like that don’t connect with the audience. All you can do is try and understand why the reaction has been as it is.”

In truth, not even Adam Hills himself could match the numbers of Spicks and Specks. As we must keep reminding ourselves, the landscape is now changing every two years.

Lastly on the question of the ABC trying to do too much (and doing it to a substandard level), could it simply do less and do it better?

”It’s a very valid point and an ongoing discussion within the ABC,” he says. ”We have finite resources. We have had a significant injection of funds into drama and children. The results of that are on our screens with ABC3 and ABC4Kids,” says Dalton.


  1. The whole premise of The Age’s “pressing questions” to Dalton stems from why ABC isn’t acting like a commercial network when chasing ratings. There was one MD who attempted to do this. His name was Jonathan Shier.

  2. I love Randling. In fact the entire current Wednesday night line up is awesome.
    Also looking forward to all the upcoming Aussie dramas. Cannot wait for the return of Rake – the writing is brilliant. Pure gold.

  3. I was looking forward to Randling, but find it incredibly disappointing. Mostly this is because, although they are obviously trying to celebrate language and words, there is too much of an attempt to make the show accessible by celebrating ignorance through having contestants that don’t add much to the format. I agree with GuanoLad that in general the contestants are smug and not as funny as they think they are. Also the pace feels contrived – in one half hour episode there are too few games and too much boring banter (often quite leaden or smutty jokes) that really doesn’t have anything to do with the show’s purported purpose.

    Another (possibly petty) peeve is the fact that the contestants sit there in private school-style blazers with team crests behind them. To me, this automatically marks the show as out of touch with a mainstream audience – effectively it says that intelligent discussion about words and language is the domain of a privileged few. The attempt to decry this by having contestants banter boringly just sends mixed messages. It would be cleverer and more appealing to celebrate actual knowledge rather than the contestants attempt to crack jokes with Andrew Denton acting as referee.

  4. Following fairdinkum’s line of thinking, yes News 24 seems to cost a lot for little gain. I wonder if getting rid of the studio when there’s no breaking news (much like Euronews’ typical operation) would save money they could spend on investigative journalism and research.

  5. @ Secret Squirrel

    I have been catching a lot of the science shows on SBS. Love them. Actually I often watch SBS at 8.30pm Sunday more often than the ABC these days. I’m glad there’s stuff worth watching on. Also I sometimes watch the ABC2 show on Wednesday night. I like those repeats.

    One thing I wish wasn’t on Thursday was those Australian historical documentaries. I would of watched them on Sunday. If not Tuesday or Wednesday or sometimes Friday if not against Phryne Fisher. I hope Aunty repeats them in the Summer. I hope Tuesday or repeat them after midnight or 1am in case there’s some sort of clash. I love second chances. Plus I really love great factual shows.

  6. Mark Scott raised the additional funds for Drama, Comedy and Kids. Kim Dalton is the process guy to ensure the right things get commissioned – but he has set the bar too low. His problem is the genre heads – all delivering under-performing shows. The Slap was base camp for drama commissioning – not the assault on the summit. Miss Fisher is an example of a very soft, niche show working for the 55+ (mostly women) core ABC audience. The hit and miss of the rest of the local drama is just not good enough to inspire anyone to make it must see. Comedy is an epic fail and kids is disappointing at best – luckily Dance Academy was already on the way otherwise it would be wall to wall Stoked on ABC3 – awesome dude, radical rubbish. IMHO disclaimer of course.

  7. I don’t have a problem with ABC putting ‘premium’ content on Thursday or Friday nights. It’s good to have a balance through the week and not have such a top-heavy line-up on Sunday and Monday and then leave us with low rent filler at the other end of the week. It’s a game the commercial networks play but it’s good to see ABC balance the scales in that regard and it does give us the opportunity to see shows that we might otherwise miss earlier in the week because of the more intense commercial competition.

    Although I wasn’t a fan of The Slap I did enjoy the recent re-run of Paper Giants on the last 2 Thursday nights.

    And perhaps I’m the only person to say this but I quite liked Adam Hills In Gordon Street Tonight although I was more likely to catch the ABC2 re-run on the Saturday rather than the Wednesday showing on ABC1.

  8. Secret Squirrel

    The problem with Randling is not the host. Andrew is exactly as he should be for the show as it is. It’s kind of like ABC’s Letters and Numbers – it’s gentle, slightly nerdy, fun; and it belongs on a Friday night or perhaps Thursday. I’ve caught it a couple of times and I don’t think it’s terrible but neither has it made me want to watch it each week.

    However, comparing it with Spicks and Specks is a little like comparing apples and oranges (or maybe pears). S&S is built around the topic of music, has had some big names as guests, has more activity (eg bicycle-powered record player), and Adam Hills was assisted by two very able co-hosts.

    @A. – if you want TV science, SBS has had a few decent programs (and some half-baked efforts) on lately.

  9. P.S. I’ve said it before I hope they use Doctor Who on Sunday to kick off an excellent Sunday night line up. As previously ABC Sunday night was my number one priority as a viewer. Not anymore. I’m missing it.

  10. I’ve said before I would of tried at least the first episode of The Slap on Sunday. But couldn’t on Thursday. Maybe it was best. I don’t mind them putting lawyer or criminal POV shows on Thursday. Actually I prefer it as I would avoid them on Sunday.

    As for Randling I might watch it if its paired properly. I’m not interested in grumpy people or advice givers. Or sitcoms or British satire. I did love Mad as Hell. Also Gruen. Although these days because of the long running 8pm stuff up I go out so I often miss the start.

    The other thing I wish they’d fix is Catalyst on Thursday 8pm and if you must give it a rest put a good quality science show on. Although sometimes I could watch Doctor Who. Particularly The Eleventh Hour. But I’d still prefer a science show. Why are they becoming rare or non-existent?

  11. I have always been an avid ABC viewer, but these days there are very few things that I really Must See. So many repeats and so many shows not worthy of the ABC: Playing it Straight???? What is happening?? I watch Gruen, Media Watch, new Hustle, Armstrong and Miller, Grand Designs Revisited and Foreign Correspondent. It is very disappointing that there are so many repeats. And I do not find Would I Lie To You? very amusing at all.

  12. “In truth, not even Adam Hills himself could match the numbers of Spicks and Specks.”

    It doesn’t matter how popular the host is. If the format is problematic and the writing and producing not up to scratch, then the show won’t work. Or rate.

  13. Of course the ABC is trying to do too much across too many platforms. ABC1 is the core business and that’s where the resources should go. Think “Downton Abbey”, “Upstairs Downstairs” the commissioning of “Grand Designs Australia”etc. They have an obsession with Denton and Byrne because they are seen as the “Sydney intellectual elite” and consequently can do no wrong. NEWS24 must also be an enormous strain on the recourses for very few viewers. It’s boring and they should admit it has failed without sufficient funding and shut it down. The trouble is very few of the “North Shore Nobodies” ” who run the place will ever admit they have made a mistake and being the Public Service they can always get away with it.

  14. I like Randling. It’s no QI, but then what is? And we already have QI so why does it need to be? It’s gentle fun on a Wednesday evening, and sometimes that’s enough.

    My biggest issue with it is that a couple of the “celebrity” contestants are not as entertaining as they seem to think they are.

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