“I sent a message to Fran saying I’ve been through instances like this”

EXCLUSIVE: Q&A host Tony Jones sent a message of support to Fran Kelly following a media storm over last week’s episode, and attributed the incident to the panel mix.

“It could have been managed by having a panel with serious differences of opinion on it,” he tells TV Tonight.

“If we were to go back and reinvent the panel we probably would have had a panel with alternative views, who might have actually argued if someone had talked about violence being an answer -even if they were just being rhetorical.

“But unfortunately the panel didn’t contain anyone who fiercely contested that idea.

“Fran has come out today and said she’s sorry she didn’t do more to do that. I can understand her position. I think everyone reflecting on it would think they could have done better.”

The discussion around violence against women led to panelists endorsing violence has received over 200 complaints, with ABC launching an internal investigation. ABC managing director David Anderson in a statement acknowledged, “I can understand why some viewers found elements of this episode confronting or offensive.”

Tony Jones, who was launching his new novel last week, In Darkness Visible, has not seen the episode which was taken offline at the direction of ABC Chair Ita Buttrose. But he has read much of the criticism levelled against the show and host Fran Kelly.

As he nears the end of his 12 years with the show, Jones is familiar with the scrutiny that comes with the role.

“I sent a message to Fran saying I’ve been through instances like this, and you basically have to hold your breath and swim through it to get to the surface,” he reveals.

“In Fran’s case she’s got a huge body of great work behind her. No-one is really going to say Fran Kelly is to blame, or that it in any way affects her reputation as a journalist. That reputation is based on many, many years of fine work.

“I would typically begin my day by listening to Fran and at the end of her programme I feel incredibly well-informed by a really acute, critical mind. There’s no way all of that is wiped out by one night on a Live television show.”


  1. In all the brouhaha over expletive-laden language and calls to violence it’s a pity nobody has thought to point out that the level of discussion on Monday was, above all else, lame and risible. It was like sitting in a tutorial for naive first year uni students, anxious to show off their radical red by being as extreme and uncompromising as possible. By 15 minutes in I was just wishing there was one adult in the room, and since Fran Kelly didn’t seem willing to be that person I switched off.

  2. I’m sure Fran can stand up for herself she has been a TV / radio journalist long enough to know when a line of questioning is going off track or likely to cause offense, in my opinion her moderation follows a current media trend to create a divisive talking point that potentially attracts social media debate and possibly makes tomorrows headlines, something which Tony Jones on his better days was good at. I suspect Q&A caught themselves out with their controversial guest selections this time. Perhaps looking to uplift future ratings.

  3. The ABC used a panel solely from a radical feminist conference, because they and the moderator wanted to advocate that agenda. And it backfired badly. Anderson recognised it immediately while watching it, they pulled it form iview and acknowledged the problem.

    Of course what most of them really regret was they didn’t get away with it, and they will have to be more subtle in the future to achieve their aims. But we can hope they have more balanced panels, moderators who are objective and treat both sides the same. A good place to start would Fannings episodes of The Drum.

  4. I enjoy Q&A when there a balance of views. To have a panel with limited views is frustrating. It is clear the ABC has a number of agendas that it continues to push; manipulating outcomes of debate.. This is not creating a better future for Australia but division! We deserve a lot better from our public broadcaster. Is the ABC a leader of intelligent debate? A useful debate will help and think more broadly and modify our own ideas. Any person with conservative views on Q&A is not taken seriously and laughed at. Does the ABC only represent the views of inner city thinkers? We have serious issues in Australia which I think we all want to address, therefore a balanced view from a range of leaders in their fields of expertise is necessary and would be beneficial for Australia. I look forward to a Q&A with substance and balanced views.

  5. It seems to me the troll army has come out in force huffing and puffing and now the ABC is giving them a good feed. I saw this episode and there has been far more inflammatory things said in previous QandAs that got far less attention than what these women were talking about. If you thought they were endorsing violence then you the viewer were twisting their words and removing the context in your own mind to fit whatever confirmation bias you had against the panellists. I hope this doesn’t lead to future QandAs becoming insipid and airy fairy for fear of offending viewers who find strong convictions scary.

    • “How many rapists must we kill? Not the state, because I disagree with the death penalty and I want to get rid of incarceration and I’m with you on the police. So I want women themselves… As a woman I’m asking, how many rapists must we kill until men stop raping us?”

      “…..there are many causes where people have resorted to violence as a way to finally break through and get heard and achieve what we need. And if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.”

      Twisting what words?

      • You literally proved my point. You cut out the whole conversation only pasting the exact sentences that confirm what you think. You took away the context and gave those sentences a totally different meaning.

        • There is absolutely no ambiguity in what was said. Killing, violence and burning is killing, violence and burning no matter how much you choose to twist their words and ignore the fact.

  6. Fran was a sheep on this episode and I can’t believe the ABC has removed the episode from iView for people to watch but has kept the transcript, what’s the difference? They should of asked Sydney Watson to join the panel, that would of made for some great television! Of course Tony Jones is going to stick up for Fran, what a joke.

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