Monday, 25 July 2016 08:24

ABC Wi-Fi stuff-up: petition seeks lifting of ban

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Supporters of the ABC's science programme Catalyst and reporter Dr Maryanne Demasi have launched a petition in a bid to get the ban on the Wi-Fried episode lifted and the reporter returned to normal duties.

The ABC took the Wi-Fried episode, which was broadcast on 16 February, off its website earlier this month after an internal investigation determined that its editorial standards had been breached.

There were several complaints about it soon the broadcast. Catalyst is promoted as the ABC's flagship science programme.

Briefly, the Wi-Fried programme, which attempted to tie the use of mobile phones and the presence of Wi-Fi devices to conditions like brain cancer, was found to have several inaccuracies.

At the time, an ABC statement said ABC TV was "reviewing the strategy and direction for Catalyst with a view to strengthening this very important and popular programme".

Demasi (below) was advised "that her on-air editorial assignments will be on hold until the review is completed in September 2016".

Dr Maryanne Demasi.

The petition to lift restrictions on Demasi was launched on change.org and is seeking 2500 signatures in order to ask the ABC's new managing director, Michelle Guthrie, to act.

While many news outlets, including iTWire, have reported that Demasi has been "suspended", the ABC is unwilling to confirm that this is actually the case.

In response to an iTWire query as to whether she had been issued a formal suspension order, ABC media manager Nick Leys would only respond: "We are making no further comments at this stage."

ABC managers have refused to take an responsibility for the fact that the Wi-Fried programme failed to meet the corporation's own editorial standards, despite there being five levels of management to review each and every Catalyst episode before it goes to air.

These are the series producer, the executive producer, the head of factual department, the legal department, and then finally the head of television.

There has been plenty of support for these managers. ABC employee Paul Barry who presents the Media Watch programme, has called for Demasi to be sacked, without making any mention of those who have oversight.

Barry's comments were mysteriously missing from the online transcript of his programme. They later appeared, after an iTWire query as to why they were missing was met with the response that it was due to a "technical issue with the site".

And a former presenter of the same programme, Jonathan Holmes, criticised Demasi at the time the programme went to air, saying she was "doing the reputation of ABC science reporting incalculable harm".


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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