Monday, 29 August 2016 05:53

Wi-Fi stuff-up: ABC bid to sideline science reporter Featured

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The episode of the ABC's main science programme Catalyst screened on Tuesday night (23 August) on Alzheimer's disease gave no credit to reporter Dr Maryanne Demasi, despite including interviews she had done, reliable sources have told iTWire.

Demasi's name was not even in the numerous credits at the end of the transcript and the sources say this may indicate the corporation is sharpening its knives to get rid of her.

A reporter on the programme for the last 10 years, Demasi was taken off on-air duties until September after a programme she made, on mobiles and Wi-Fi and their alleged connection to cancer, was pulled off the corporation's website in July following a long inquiry. The programme went to air in February and earned its fair share of criticism.

The ABC has some form with regard to forcing out any staffer who attracts controversy.

The sources point to the case of Nick Ross, former technology editor of the ABC, who was asked to write articles championing the Coalition's approach to building the NBN in order to balance his reasoned conclusion in a long article that a FttP network — which just happens to be Labor's approach — was the right one for Australia.

Ross claimed he was gagged over his views on the NBN and then forced out. The ABC contests this characterisation of his departure.

The fact that the 23 August programme originated from Demasi was hinted at by Media Watch presenter Paul Barry when he passed judgement on her back in July, saying "As for Dr Demasi, we believe she has to go", comments that were mysteriously missing from the online transcript until iTWire raised the issue with the corporation, which attributed it to a "technical issue".

In the course of the same programme, Barry said: "We've now learnt that a fourth Demasi programme — suggesting a link between diet and Alzheimer's — was pulled last month after it was referred up to the ABC's editorial director, Alan Sunderland."

Sources tell iTWire that the scope of the 23 August programme was expanded to include the impact of diet and sleep on the possible onset of Alzheimer's so that anyone who saw it would not draw a connection between Barry's statements and the episode and conclude that they were one and the same.

Contacted for comment, Demasi politely declined.

Another programme made by Demasi in 2013, a two-part episode on the alleged link between heart disease and statins, was also taken offline after a lot of criticism.

On the ABC website, it says of Demasi, "Maryanne was headhunted by the ABC's Catalyst programme in 2006. She has since gained a reputation for reporting on relevant and sometimes controversial medical stories. She has won numerous accolades for her work. Recently she was awarded the 2011 National Press Club of Australia’s prize for her excellence in health journalism."

iTWire contacted ABC media manager Nick Leys for a response about the lack of credit given to Demasi but he has not responded.


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Sam Varghese

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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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