Q&A is consistently the highest rated topical shows on Australian television, offering viewers a no-holds barred political debate every Monday night.
Built around democracy in action, it invites a live studio audience to put tough questions to a panel of politicians and opinion makers.
The ABC knew that bringing the off-screen debate from viewers at home to the screen via social media was key to building a vibrant and committed audience.
But engaging with a vocal audience on deeply polarising issues is no easy task. We knew that people at home had valuable perspectives to share. Laboriously moderating each tweet in a fast-paced conversation would mean by the time it reached the screen it could be irrelevant.
Allowing only certain users to Tweet on screen would diminish the sense of democracy in action. But was opening up the Twitter floodgates to let any keyboard warrior broadcast his or her views across the Q&A screen just too risky…?
Our challenge was to allow people at home to express their views in real-time, add depth to the discussion, and to keep the debate lively and heated without the conversation descending into irrelevance, obscenity or insanity.
We built proprietary standalone system, TweeVee TV, which displays relevant tweets on screen moment to moment, but allows the show’s producers to control what goes to air.
Each tweet goes through a three stage moderation process, which includes automated and human screening.
Because in a live TV environment, every second counts, TweeVee TV is hosted in Australia for optimal perfomance and support. The incredible processing speed means tweets on screen correspond to the debate on air. And the system includes sophisticated spambot avoidance intelligence.
4.7 million tweets have been processed through the TweeVee TV system to date. The fastest Tweet to air speed is five seconds, meaning the debate on screen is dynamic and fast-paced, matching the studio debate.
An average of 30,000 tweets are processed per show, and each week an average of 180 tweets are screened during the show.
Most importantly, Q&A has one of the largest and most committed audiences on social media, with online conversation figures beating reality TV shows on commercial networks with much larger audiences.
Q&A’s success proves that integrating social media into broadcast television can make a substantial difference to viewer engagement, and increase TV tune-in rates.
And it continues to bring democracy to life every Monday night.