Catalyst reporter: “ABC has decided it doesn’t need in-house scientific expertise”

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Catalyst presenter Mark Horstman (pictured, second from left) has lashed out at ABC management following redundancies and the end of the weekly programme.

On Facebook he criticised the loss of 15 jobs and the loss of its internal science team:

“Today the ABC sacked its entire specialist science TV team, the only one of its kind in Australia. After 14 years of diligent public service as a science broadcaster, journalist, and producer (including training me as a cadet journalist), ABC tells me I’m redundant ‘as your position is no longer required for the efficient and economical operation of the ABC.’

“Bizarre, given that the weekly Catalyst show was cost-effective, highly valued by the community, and one of the ABC’s most popular programs. Strangely, it means that the ABC has decided it doesn’t need in-house scientific expertise to make science TV.

“I’m gutted. For my 15 colleagues, that their incredible skills and dedication are not valued by the ABC. And gutted that our warehouse of unique experience in science communication is trashed in one fell swoop. As a true believer in the role of the public broadcaster, I always trusted that science was at the core of what the ABC made. The media need more, not less science.

“Thank you to Anna, Jarra, and Jess (and of course Pam, Margaret and Henry) for your love and support in making this journey possible over the years (and the constant travel and long hours it involved). Thank you to the soundos, camos and editors for your friendship, craft, and creativity on our many adventures. Thank you to the many thousands of people around the country – scientists, teachers, friends, lovers of quality TV, Hands Off OUR ABC, and ABC Friends – who in recent weeks have urged the ABC to reconsider and retain their science story makers. I’m sorry we were not able to convince TV management or the ABC Board otherwise.

“I’m deeply grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, and have so much more to offer. Where to now? We’ll see. But even when they sting you in the head, the show must go on.”

Earlier this month ABC announced Catalyst would shift from its 30 minute format to “17 hour-long documentaries” but the move has drawn criticism from within the Science community.

11 Comments:

  1. The ABC isn’t getting rid of all it’s science journos, just it’s TV ones.

    Here’s hoping the new science docos will be really good. They may well be.

  2. I think it’s a shame that the ABC choose to make this decision.
    Given that this government is making cuts to the ABC for thier perceived bias and will continue to do so until the political comentry of the ABC becomes a toothless tiger, is why I can’t help thinking that it could be prudent to reduce the political comentry of the abc to save the rest of it.
    At the moment with Q&A, 7.30. Lateline, The feed, insiders on tv and all the numberous radio stations and programs loosing a little of this to provide a more succinct product to save the rest of it is a no brainer to me.
    $0.02

  3. More like govt pressure brought about this cancellation of a great informative show , its disgraceful how this liberal govt is turning our ABC into a state broadcaster .interference is not good for a democratic country .sad really .

  4. I know the pain he and the rest are feeling; I was in a redundancy round at the ABC many years ago and it’s not pleasant at all, but the downsizing of the ABC has been happening for 20 years or more. Arts, Drama, Comedy – little or no in-house culture or content, and now Science. The day that Play School is axed, it will be time to close the ABC but until then, its a gradual dismantle. Just News and Current Affairs left. Sad but inevitable.

  5. Secret Squïrrel

    This is disgraceful. There was one bad egg and ABC management have decided to throw out the whole carton. And the chicken.

    However, I have to agree with Tex’s third para. Demasi’s controversial programs should never have made it to air in that form. Someone was responsible for either poor oversight or none at all. Change was required but you don’t need to burn down the whole village.

  6. Below website tallied Catalyst ratings (from TV Tonight) for the last eight years and ended with an interesting view.
    medicalrepublic.com.au/real-reason-abc-axed-catalyst-not/

    • Always a risk to compare any ratings from 8 years ago to today. But I’m glad a “strange and long-running website” was considerably helpful. Comprehensive might have been another word given the free assistance!

      • Also a bit risky for him, and possibly you – considering that, after he admits to not wanting to pay for it himself, he’s copied the OzTAM data (that you have legitimately sourced & used within their guidelines) to produce a derivative work for non-private use on what seems to be a commercial website.

        That would seem to directly contravene the ToS for OzTAM’s data, and quite possibly the terms of use of your licence.

  7. To be fair, it doesn’t seem their in-house “specialist science TV team” was adding much scientific rigor.

    At best, Catalyst was informational at a level that should be expected (but, sadly, rarely seen these days) from a competent journalist. At worst … well, we all know what happened when they tried to “teach the controversy” over Wi-Fi & statins…

    If they’d done their jobs properly – not even in the realm of science, but simply as journalists & story researchers – things may have been different.

  8. Hey David, what about a petition? It’s our ABC, and I for one, want to see this excellent team in 2017, including Maryanne Demasi, providing all her content is scrutinised.

    • Change.org has one that centres around Maryanne Demasi. I don’t think it’s my role to host a petition unless it’s something I personally feel passionate about, the site is a personal blog after all. But I have reported on those that have attracted significant numbers in the past. I feel a petition is best to emerge from the audience not those of us who are messengers….

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