Science Censorship in Australia: The retraction of the ABC TV Catalyst “Wi-Fried?”

As there are no perfect scientific studies, there are no perfect TV science programs. Every scientific study could be improved and every TV science program could be improved, too.

The Australian ‘Catalyst’ program tackled the very controversial science dealing with the possible health effects of wi-fi and cell phones, in a provocatively entitled “Wi-Fried?”, broadcasted on February 16, 2016 by the ABC TV.

Many of the viewers agreed with the opinions presented in the “Wi-Fried?” and many disagreed. Those who disagreed pressured the ABC TV to retract the “Wi-Fried?” and they succeeded. As of the July 5, 2016, by the decision of the Director of Television, Richard Finlayson, the program was retracted and is no longer available on the Catalyst’s website.

While I personally do not agree with several statements made in the “Wi-Fried?” program, I think the retraction of the program and suspension of the journalist, Maryanne Demasi, are too harsh actions. It appears that the ABC TV was possibly “pressured” to act and “scapegoats” were to be found and “retracted and suspended”.

The suggestion of a possible post factum “pressure” on the ABC TV to retract the “Wi-Fried?” program comes from reading the list of editorial decisions that precede any Catalyst broadcast on ABC TV. Each Catalyst’s story goes through rigorous editorial policy department, and before it is broadcasted it has a final approval from

  • the series producer,
  • the executive producer,
  • the head of factual department,
  • legal department, and then finally
  • the Head of Television.

Every single person in that process watched the “Wi-Fried?” program before it went to air and every single person determined that the program was sufficiently balanced (it does not have to be “50/50”) and sufficiently fairly represents the various range of views on the issue.

Given that this many people scrutinized the program and determined that it was sufficiently fair and balanced, it gives an indication of how many “errors and misjudgments” were made by the many layers of ABC TV management, for which “the scapegoat” pays the price.

The potential conflict of interest (CoI) might be also involved.

The regulator of the mobile phone industry in Australia is the organization ACMA (http://www.acma.gov.au) and the same ACMA is also the regulatory authority of the ABC TV network.  How is that for a potential CoI?

Summa summarum, the action of the ABC TV retracting the “Wi-Fried?” program looks like a classical example of science censorship, done under pressure and tainted with CoI

I hope that, in the interest of the open scientific debate, the Director of Television at the ABC TV, Richard Finlayson, will reconsider his decision to retract “Wi-Fried?”.

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12 thoughts on “Science Censorship in Australia: The retraction of the ABC TV Catalyst “Wi-Fried?”

  1. Pingback: Wi-Fried – Du lever i en mikrobølgeovn (video) – Ny1.no

  2. A very good title, because that is exactly what is happening here, the science is being censored. Since they cannot cite a single factual error, this campaign against Maryanne Demasi should also be called out for what it is: a witch hunt.

  3. This isn’t the first time Catalyst was censured for program content that questioned ‘mainstream’ views. There was an uproar following their program on Statins and cholesterol – even though a number of reputable scientists and medical practitioners have been saying for years that cholesterol isn’t the boogeyman it’s claimed to be, and Statins are, at the very least, being over-prescribed.

    In fact, I saw an interview of scientist Dr Lucija Tomlenjovic, in which she told of being instructed by her boss to fudge figures on a Statin study which had shown unfavourable outcomes for the drug – because to show the truth would mean no further funding from the pharmaceutical company involved. And while ever studies of drugs are paid for pharmaceutical interests, this sort of fraud will continue – and the media will continue to be censored and censured if they try to expose the truth on such issues.

  4. The suspension of Maryanne Demasi is an unjustifiable abuse of power and should be reversed. I guess it would not take place if she claimed that radio radiation promotes human health and that buying smartphones helps the economy. No one was ever suspended for saying so.

  5. Tom, I read the report… and will write more on it in a few days time…

  6. Pingback: ABC Catalyst's future under review after episode linking Wi-Fi and cancer | WEIGHT LOSS TIPS

  7. That just stinks. It was a well-presented programme and the suspension of the journalist is just ‘big-brother’ style poilitical pressure.

  8. Pingback: ABC Catalyst's future under review after episode linking Wi-Fi and cancer | ELECTRONIC CITY

  9. Pingback: ABC Catalyst's future under review after episode linking Wi-Fi and cancer - Kotak Hobby

  10. I absolutely agree with you. I watched the programme twice and thought that it was very informative and adequately balanced given regular media promotion of the far-from-balanced views that all RF exposure from mobile phones, WiFi, etc, is perfectly safe, including Rodney Croft’s statement: “Given that radiofrequency emissions are one of the most heavily researched agents that science has ever assessed, and given that (contrary to Catalyst’s claims) no substantiated health effects have emerged, we can be very confident that the emissions are indeed safe.” Croft is a professor of public health psychology at the University of Wollongong. Although the IARC 2B classification was primarily due to mobile phone brain tumour research publications, they stated at the Press Conference that it applied to all RF exposures (including WiFi). Parents and pupils have the right to hear all sides of this controversial issue.

    A similar thing happened after the 2007 BBC Panorama “WiFi – A warning Signal?” programme that I was involved with. It included an interview with Sir William Stewart, who was Chairman of the UK Health Protection Agency and previously had set up and Chaired the Stewart Report (IEGMP) report into the safety of mobile phone technlogy. He stated that he though we should be being more precautionary about exposing children. He had been the UK Chief Scientist under several Governments and, before that, had run the Porton Down Chemical and Biological Effects unit for many years. After the program it was “rubbished” and the BBC team that had made it was broken up and Sir William retired.

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