Fran Kelly is fine and familiar, but she's not the future of the ABC

Fran Kelly is fine and familiar, but she’s not the future of the ABC

Now allow me to put on record that my disappointment has nothing to do with Fran Kelly as a broadcaster or person. I’m a big Fran-Fan, long-time listener, first-time complainer.

When she departed Radio National’s Breakfast Last year, I was the first one in the family group chat to send the link accompanied by the heartbreak emoji.

But I reckon even Fran would concede she’s had a pretty good run. She was on the microphone at Radio National for 17 years, which is the exact age of all the people who don’t listen to Triple J.

As a political journalist, Fran has runs on the board, but this type of show doesn’t sound like a vehicle that requires her expertise. Instead, it feels like a missed opportunity for the ABC to achieve two critical goals: reach a younger audience and spotlight emerging talent.

Ironically, the press release for frankly promises “frank yet fun chats” with “big thinkers and change-makers.”

But if we’re really being frank (yet fun), the ABC appears allergic to big thinking or change-making.


Earlier this year, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age ran a story on how the same set of faces has dominated the Australian TV landscape for the past few decades.

As part of that piece, Tom Ballard, perhaps the last millennial to be given a chance by the ABC thanks to his 2017 chat show, tonightlypromptly identified the problem.

“At its worst, Australian TV just often feels suffocatingly safe,” Ballard said.

Rather than playing it safe and dusting off Kelly after six months on the shelf, the ABC should have invested in the future instead of pandering to the past.

A Friday night chat hosted by Fran Kelly might satisfy what’s left of the ABC’s boomer audience, but it’s a sign the broadcaster seems to have given up on high-production, prime-time content aimed at younger audiences. That’s bad for us, and it’s bad for ABC.

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