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ABC confirms major changes to Catalyst

Television

The ABC has confirmed a major overhaul of science show Catalyst, putting the jobs of nine staff in jeopardy.

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Under the new plan, the weekly 30-minute magazine-style show will be replaced by 17 hour-long internally commissioned documentaries, the ABC said in a statement released today.

In the proposed plan, it seems unlikely the show’s presenters including controversial reporter Maryanne Demasi will be returning as Catalyst will use leading expert subject presenters, rather than a fixed ensemble of reporters.

The overhaul is the first review of the Catalyst format in 15 years and comes after several controversies involving Demasi.

The presenter was suspended earlier this year following the broadcast in February of an episode about wireless devices, Wi-Fried, which was found to have breached the ABC’s accuracy and impartiality standards.

That came after another controversial episode, presented by Demasi in October 2013, which questioned the benefit of cholesterol-reducing medication, and was also widely criticised.

The ABC declined to comment on the fate of individual staff members but did confirm that up to nine staff members may be affected.

“Consultations have begun with the ABC offering alternate positions for some staff,” the statement read.

One executive producer will be recruited to manage a small internal production team who will be co-located with the state broadcaster’s science units online and in radio.

“Catalyst has made a huge contribution to science communication over 16 years. But, audiences can now get instant access to quality content anywhere in the world and we must ensure our programs can have the greatest possible public impact,” the director of ABC TV, Richard Finlayson, said.

“Under this model, we will encourage excellence by allowing the best minds in Australia to pitch their science ideas no matter how local or how global.”

AAP

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