[ASC-list] Defending specialist science programs on ABC

Peter Pockley scicomm at bigpond.net.au
Sun Oct 26 23:31:14 UTC 2008

ASCers are probably aware of the roiling controversy in the general 
media about the ABC's decision to cut nine programs from the Radio 
National schedule in 2009. Most attention has focussed on The 
Religion Report following the presenter/producer Stephen Crittenden's 
revelation "live on air" about the cuts which include that program. 
Not as much attention has been given to the axing of In Conversation, 
Robyn Williams's long-form interview program with scientists on 
Thursday evenings, but this is just as significant a dilution of 
specialist programming in the ABC.

As an example of the widely expressed dismay of listeners to the news 
of these cuts and the manner of their announcement and defence by the 
ABC, The Sydney Morning Herald had six Letters to the Editor on the 
issues last Thursday, 23 October, including one by this writer 
(prominently placed at top of the page as the "First Word" letter) .


See also Christopher Pearson's knowledgeable and detailed defence of 
The Religion Report in Saturday's Weekend Australian. You could 
almost substitute "science" for "religion" in his column and it would 
apply closely to the parallel specialisation, too.


Here is an issue where religion and science have a common cause and I 
suggest it would be highly desirable for the ASC Executive to weigh 
into a defence of these and other specialised programs -- publicly 
and quickly.

Individual ASCers might consider adding their tuppence worth, too, 
and might suggest to their institutional bosses (where they have one) 
that the scientific community should express grave concern at these 
moves and that the voices of their representative organisations 
should also be heard, just as the Catholic bishops came out 
collectively in defence of The Religion Report last week.

To anyone who might think this is just a flash in the pan, remind 
them that, a couple of years ago, ABC management axed  the excellent 
environment report on Radio National  (produced in the Science Unit), 
just at a time that environmental issues were coming to the fore as 
global issues of huge consequence. Also point out the huge loss of 
in-house expertise and talent in the forced departures of 35 
producers and the like in TV production, including the science 
producer, Dr Richard Smith (of the brilliant "Crude" documentary fame).


Peter Pockley, DPhil
Science writer & broadcaster

25 Avenue Road, Glebe, Sydney
New South Wales 2037, Australia
Phone: +61 (0) 2 9660 6363; Fax +61 (0) 2 9660 6239
Email: scicomm at bigpond.net.au

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