Q+A host Hamish Macdonald to leave ABC

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Pierra WillixThe West Australian
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VideoClive Palmer has been depicted as Dr Evil, a cane toad and today a cockroach on the front page of The West Australian, and when he was asked about it on ABC's RN Breakfast, he hung up on host Hamish Macdonald.

After months of plummeting ratings, Q+A host Hamish Macdonald has announced he is leaving the ABC and its flagship current affairs program.

Just 18 months after taking over from long-time host Tony Jones, the national broadcaster announced Macdonald’s departure in a statement this morning.

“I am enormously grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to host Q+A and to work alongside wonderful, talented and passionate people,” Macdonald said.

“I am really proud of what we’ve achieved together during these extraordinary times.”

In the written statement, the 40-year-old journalist thanked the show’s audience.

“Their questions and stories from all corners of Australia are inspiring, revealing and clever — and it has been a privilege to receive and read them,” he said.

While Macdonald did not give more details about why he was leaving the program, he did say he was “really excited to be moving on to a new opportunity, and working more with the ABC in the future.”

Earlier this year Hamish Macdonald revealed that he had stepped away from social media.
Camera IconEarlier this year Hamish Macdonald revealed that he had stepped away from social media. Credit: Kelly Defina/Getty Images,

The move comes after months of low ratings for the program, which was moved from its regular Monday night 9.35pm timeslot to 8.30 on Thursday nights when it re-launched this year.

Since then, it has consistently failed to draw in audiences, with just 354,000 tuning in around the country last week. In Perth there were only 26,000 viewers.

The week before, there were only 269,000 viewers nationwide, placing it out of the 20 most-watched shows of the night.

In March the program’s viewership had dropped to its lowest point in its 14-season history, with 237,000 viewers tuning in across the five major cities one week.

Nearly a decade ago, ratings company OzTam recorded that the show was drawing in more than 600,000 viewers an episode in March 2012.

In recent months, Macdonald has been noticeably absent from the desk, with other presenters—including Stan Grant, David Speers and Virginia Trioli—hosting in his absence.

The ABC said this was due to lock downs and border closures, and that guests hosts would continue to helm the show “due to lockdown”.

This means Macdonald will not have a final episode at the helm.

After previously working for Channel 4, ITV and Al Jazeera English, Macdonald held various roles with Network Ten, first as a reporter for 6.30 with George Negus.

Over the past decade he has filled in as a presenter on The Sunday Project, and has continued to act as a guest panellist on Ten’s news program since taking over on Q + A.

Earlier this year Macdonald revealed that he had stepped away from social media after being bombarded with abuse since starting on the panel discussion show.

“I work on a show where you’re bringing together different opinions and viewpoints, and ultimately my job as a journalist is to test those opinions no matter what they are,” he said.

ABC news director Gaven Morris said that the ABC was looking forward to “continuing” its relationship “when opportunities arise” for Macdonald.

“Everyone at the ABC thanks Hamish for the incredible job he has done,” he said.

“At one stage during the lockdown he was presenting a live panel discussion program that wasn’t allowed to have either an audience or panellists in the studio. His experience and versatility came to the fore…Hamish has long been a part of the ABC family and we look forward to continuing that relationship when opportunities arise.”

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