Thursday, November 03, 2016
Irresponsible peddlers of a Green/Left scare story get their just desserts
Fronted by Maryanne Demasi, the Australian ABC "Catalyst" program aired a scare story saying that mobile phones and Wi-Fi caused health impacts including brain tumours. That caused an immediate outcry from the scientific community who know the evidence on such a hoary old nonsense.
The Catalyst staff should have known better. The effect of electromagnetic radiation on health has been a big boogeyman for many years but the contrary evidence is huge. Notably: From the early days of mobile phones until now there has been no upsurge in brain cancer. Now that mobiles are very widely used, we should be swimming in brain cancer cases by now. But we are not. High or low levels of mobile phone use and the resultant radiation makes no difference. It's all just attention-seekers big-noting themselves
Staff on the ABC’s Catalyst program staff have been told by the ABC’s director of television Richard Finlayson that they will all be made redundant.
In a meeting at Ultimo attended by TV management and human resources the presenters and producers were told the magazine style program was ending.
A last-minute bid by senior ABC staff on Wednesday to overturn the board’s decision to axe Catalyst failed, sources told Guardian Australia.
The board had been presented with reasons why the ABC should continue to cover science properly with an in-house science unit.
An internal review after Catalyst presenter Maryanne Demasi’s Wi-Fried? program was found to have breached the ABC’s impartiality guidelines recommended the program be axed and Demasi and all the other staff be made redundant.
Finlayson told staff that nine people will lose their jobs and that the changes to Catalyst were not driven by the Demasi incident alone.
“For 2017, Catalyst will move from the current half-hour, magazine-style program structure to a one-hour documentary format, focused on high-impact, single-issue programs or series,” he said.
“It will be presented by leading science experts, chosen for the various programs. This shift will align Catalyst with world’s best practice for science programming. An embedded digital capability will deliver short-form content around each program and throughout the year to increase the ABC’s digital science offering on ABC and third party social platforms.
“Finally, we must recognise that Catalyst and its team have served our audiences and the science community well for many years. However, we need to do what we believe is best for audiences, and that means adjusting our approach to best meet their needs and the realities of a changing market. We will work closely with those staff impacted by these changes to ensure they are treated respectfully throughout this transition.”
Under the baord’s plan the award-winning program will be replaced by 17 one-hour science specials, mainly from the independent production sector, commissioned by new staff the ABC is going to hire.
The ABC staff union, the Community and Public Sector Union, was holding meetings with management and staff on Thursday morning.
A letter from the ABC section secretary, Sinddy Ealy, to management fell on deaf ears.
“Catalyst fills a unique and important place in Australian science journalism and we share concerns that a longer-format replacement would mean important and exciting scientific work was ignored,” Ealy said.
“It would be a huge disservice to the Australian public if the ABC’s strategy is to intentionally dumb down specialist content in favour of ratings.
“The changing media landscape means the importance of ABC’s specialist content has never been greater. We recognise that ABC should review its programs regularly, but they also need to ensure that quality specialist content and the staff behind that content are retained.”
Senior ABC program makers warned that ditching the weekly half-hour program and disbanding the science unit would lead to a dumbing down of science programming and in effect kill off Australian science on television.
Demasi has been on leave since a review of her Wi-Fried? program – which linked Wi-Fi and mobile phones with health risks including brain cancer – was found to have breached the ABC’s impartiality guidelines.
The discredited program was the second Catalyst story by Demasi to be found in breach of the ABC’s editorial policies and to be removed from the website. In 2013 Demasi kept her job despite an editorial breach for a program about statins.