The ABC’s independent Audience and Consumer Affairs (A&CA) Unit today released its findings into a Catalyst episode, “Wi-Fried”, broadcast in February 2016 about the safety of wireless devices such as mobile phones.
The investigation was initiated after the ABC received complaints about the episode. The investigation report is available here.
While accepting the importance of investigating public health issues relating to safety of technology, A&CA concluded that the episode breached the ABC’s editorial policies standards on accuracy and impartiality.
The ABC accepts the findings and acknowledges that errors were made in the preparation and ultimate approval of the program. In response, it will take the following steps: an announcement about the findings will be broadcast directly following the Catalyst program on 5 July 2016; the “Wi-fried” program will be removed from the ABC’s Catalyst website; information relating A&CA’s findings will be added to the Catalyst website; and information regarding A&CA’s investigation and findings will be published on the ABC Corrections page.
ABC Director of Television, Richard Finlayson said the A&CA investigation had been thorough, involving complex issues and a wide range of material.
“Catalyst is a highly successful and respected science program that explores issues of enormous interest to many Australians. There is no doubt the investigation of risks posed by widespread wireless devices is an important story but we believe greater care should have been taken in presenting complex and multiple points of view.”
The A&CA Report found a number of inaccuracies within the program that had favoured the unorthodox view that mobile phones and WI-FI caused health impacts including brain tumours. ABC TV takes responsibility for the broader decision-making process that resulted in the program going to air and acknowledges this is the second significant breach for the program in two years.
ABC TV is reviewing the strategy and direction for Catalyst with a view to strengthening this very important and popular program. Further, ABC TV is addressing these issues directly with the program makers and has advised the reporter, Dr Maryanne Demasi, that her on-air editorial assignments will be on hold until the review is completed in September 2016.