Catalyst the example of new ABC direction, says Guthrie.

ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie has pointed to Catalyst as an example of how ABC will refresh its programming.

Speaking yesterday to Radio National’s Patricia Karvelas, “You only have to look at what we did with Catalyst; [that’s] an example of the way we should continually look at refreshing programs,” Guthrie explained.

“One of the things we investigated was, ‘Well, who [isn’t] currently watching Catalyst? Why don’t they watch Catalyst? If they’re interested in science, why isn’t Catalyst actually delivering for them?’

“Part of that was that they didn’t know what to expect when they watched Catalyst. One of the insights we had was, ‘How can you telegraph more, and have more focus around particular topics, where you can actually promote it more [and] reach new audiences?”

But the refresh of Catalyst is yet to be test driven, with no new episodes since it retrenched staff and announced 17 hour-long documentaries.

Guthrie also flagged changes for the 7pm ABC News, despite it being ABC’s highest rating daily programme.

“I do feel that increasingly, people are not turning the 7pm news to find out what happened that day.

“If people are not just looking for a list of things that happened today – but are looking for more analysis and context and investigation, and more in-depth review of the news – I think that’s certainly something we’ll have to look at.”

This week Guthrie announced up to 200 jobs would go as part of a major restructure, with 80 new roles to be positioned in regional Australia. $50m in savings would be reinvested in new content.

Source: Fairfax


  1. Maev....Sydney

    ‘what we did with Catalys’t….if that is how it is going to go..there will be no ABC as we have known it….which will probably make some pollies happy….
    I am not happy with the ‘changes’ to both TV and radio….over recent times… 🙁

  2. For the last few years I recorded Catalyst each week and enjoyed the magazine-style format. I can tell you right now – I will not sit through a lengthy science show with deep analysis and exploration of a topic. I actually like pop-science segments that affect everyday life. Even the dodgy Demasi specials generated debate in the wider community. The other show I recorded each week was Good Game and that’s gone now too. The comments from Guthrie greatly concern me as she seems out of touch with the audience and the ABC’s charter.

  3. Secret Squïrrel

    Agree with other comments. People get news from many different sources throughout the day. They don’t need to make an appointment at 7pm to be served a selected portion of it. With much of it being negative or politics, I suspect many people would rather watch something else after a day of work/school. We certainly don’t need yet more analysis.

    However, I will also say that ABC’s 7pm News is not as good as it used to be. It’s become more like how I recall Seven News used to be before that became more like how Today Tonight used to be. {Insert the obligatory line about reporters standing in front of buildings here.}

    As for Catalyst, they didn’t need to burn the whole barrel because of one bad apple. Regarding telling people what’s on it – how hard is it to make a promo for it each week showing what the segments were going to be about?

  4. Q1. Who [isn’t] currently watching Catalyst? A1. Everyone that isn’t interested in science
    Q2. Why don’t they watch Catalyst? A2. They’re not interested in science
    Q3. How can you telegraph more…? A3. Telegraph? It’s 2017. Shorter, coherent questions get better answers

    “no new episodes [of Catalyst] since it retrenched staff.” There’s your answer… there’s nothing to watch!

    “people are not turning [to] the 7pm news” We are bombarded all day by news from every form of media; the same stuff over and over! Diversify, be different and interesting. Find something original locally rather than rehashing rehashed ‘news’.

    “200 jobs would go” then “$50m in savings would be reinvested in new content”. Who’s left to make new content? e.g. Catalyst – The popular, clever staff and the format are gone. Vale Catalyst. Keep up this kind of amateurish ‘brainstorming’ and it’ll be Vale ABC.

    • Re: Catalyst: You’re overlooking another category – those of us interested in (or even qualified in) science who thought it was often at best simplistic, at worst misleading.

      It wasn’t just Demasi – the “popular, clever” staff also did a lot of stuff like “here’s a simplistic analogy about our subject, and here’s another simplistic analogy about a completely different subject that offers absolutely no insight into our original subject at all – but it’s so simple and entertaining that we’ll not only use it, we’ll draw ‘what if?’ conclusions from it”.

      That sort of thing isn’t science, or even popular science reporting – it’s speculative fiction. And Catalyst were quite often guilty of confusing the two…

      • I think they were clever because they could present a complex subject to the general public in an entertaining and informative way without totally dumbing it down. I think Catalyst was very watchable if not 100% accurate. Sometimes its just the seed that’s planted by such a show that inspires others to dig deeper.

        Scientists can produce subject matter that’s accurate and incredibly ground-breaking yet totally dry and boring to the general public. Could many of them make science entertaining with the broadcasting resources and the time that was available, week after week, year after year? I doubt it.

        The Quantum crew, the Catalyst crew, Julius Sumner Miller, Dr Karl, Stephen Hawking and dare I say, The Mythbusters to mention a few that come to my mind have that rare talent. These people made/make science accessible to all who would watch.

  5. People might not be watching as much news, because we can access it 24/7 on ABC24 news channel, plus radio, internet etc. I know many who avoid news as it is too negative largely. I don’t think the news needs fixing, just quality reporting.

  6. daveinprogress

    Initially, I was going along with her stance on changes to management (less so to production staff) to plough money back into programming but some of the quotes listed here, sound like she wants to reinvent the wheel. I don’t recall Mark Scott coming in and stripping back; he created stuff. I know it was on the verge of the digital platforms and online services, but Michelle Guthrie will not be met warmly if the approach is too gung-ho. But then again the ABC has been pared back to such an extent production wise, not sure what else she can do to it. Oh yes, start slashing core business – news and current affairs. Send Play School to Adelaide! That was a fair dinkum rumour at one stage years back to decentralise production from Sydney/Melbourne

  7. chivasssimo

    The 7pm ABC News definitely doesn’t need changing. Why mess with something that’s not broken? On the other hand, The Catalyst brand lost credibility because of a few BS reports. Also, just look at the myriad of “news analysis” programs already on air. keep the news as news please. If you need axe something, axe Q&A, but don’t get me started on that that waste of space.

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