ABC Friends News

RESPONSE: THREAT TO CATALYST

MEDIA RELEASE

ABC FRIENDS NATIONAL

October 31, 2016

REPORTS CATALYST MAY BE AXED

ABC Friends National Responds

By Ranald Macdonald, ABC Friends National Spokesman

It is a worrying sign for ABC supporters that if, as the Guardian Australia reports online today, the ABC’s weekly prime time television science show “Catalyst” is to be replaced by outsourced, less frequent shows under the same name.

The ABC’S new Managing Director, Michelle Guthrie, has warned that programs will be changed and also that budget cuts impact on what the ABC can produce.

Only last week at Melbourne University she said: “The ABC cannot be frozen in time, no matter how much some stakeholders would like it to be.”

“Our commitment to quality cannot be measured through a line by line defence of every program,” Ms Guthrie said.

“As I have repeatedly stressed to our teams programs and program schedules can and will change.”

Ms Guthrie said that, by resisting change, the ABC would be “locking itself away” from new audiences, would waste funds in areas of overlap or duplication, and would be: “…committing ourselves to ever declining reach and relevance.”

The need for change and new ideas is a given, but the issue is whether newness is necessarily an improvement.

Rumours have abounded for some time about changes to Catalyst, the trail-breaking 15-year-old science show, on changes to Radio National, to Foreign Correspondent, to Classic FM and other ABC programming.

The 2017 program schedule for the ABC  is about to be released, but we at ABC Friends believe strongly that the ABC’S role is to set the Gold Standard for ethical, quality, specialist and diverse broadcasting nationally, in the interests of informing, entertaining and stimulating our robust Australian democratic way of life.

We fear that the savage budget cuts and a desire from within for greater audiences may result in a dumbing down of ABC offerings.

Hopefully the news forecast on Catalyst and its future is not the beginning of this trend.

It is up to the ABC leadership to demonstrate, by its performance, that our fears are unfounded.