Catalyst presenter Dr Maryanne Demasi has been stood down until September following a breach of ABC editorial policies.
The ABC’s independent Audience and Consumer Affairs (A&CA) Unit found the episode, “Wi-Fried”, breached the ABC’s editorial policies standards on accuracy and impartiality.
The episode, which linked brain cancer to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields, was roundly criticised by experts following its broadcast in February.
The A&CA Report found a number of inaccuracies within the program that had favoured the “unorthodox” view that mobile phones and WI-FI caused health impacts including brain tumours, and a lack of impartiality.
It is the second significant breach for the program in two years. In 2014 the A&CA found two controversial episodes on statins and heart disease, also by reporter Dr Demasi, breached editorial policies. In 2014 both Diabetes Australia and the Heart Foundation also declined interviews for a further report on low carb diets.
The ABC accepts the findings and acknowledges that errors were made in the preparation and ultimate approval of the program. In response, it will take the following steps:
an announcement about the findings will be broadcast directly following the Catalyst program on 5 July 2016;
the “Wi-fried” program will be removed from the ABC’s Catalyst website;
information relating A&CA’s findings will be added to the Catalyst website; and
information regarding A&CA’s investigation and findings will be published on the ABC Corrections page.
ABC Director of Television, Richard Finlayson said “Catalyst is a highly successful and respected science program that explores issues of enormous interest to many Australians. There is no doubt the investigation of risks posed by widespread wireless devices is an important story but we believe greater care should have been taken in presenting complex and multiple points of view.”
ABC TV is now reviewing the strategy and direction for Catalyst and addressing issues directly with the program makers.