[ASC-list] Fwd: FW: Fwd: Re: Defending specialist science programs on ABC

Peter Pockley scicomm at bigpond.net.au
Mon Oct 27 22:57:36 UTC 2008

I agree wholeheartedly with David Horwood's desire to get the facts 
as straight and thorough as possible when mounting a case.

While I don't have any documents that record the stages of demise of 
Earthbeat, my memory of the events fits closely with David's 
recollections. The only thing I can add is  a note I have that 
records Alexandra de Blas leaving the ABC in 2005 and that was surely 
not long after the program was axed. So, it was three, not two, years 
ago as I original thought. I recall that the sop offered on closure 
of the dedicated program was that Alex would continue contributing 
"items" to the new "flow program" on Saturday mornings being hosted 
by Geraldine Doogue. This was clearly most unsatisfactory for 
presenter and audience alike and withered away. I suggest that you 
find Alex and check with her direct for more details.

Regarding the current situation, I shall contribute two key documents 
on the changes to RN's schedule for 2009 by posting them on a 
separate message -- the list of program changes and the accompanying 
memo to staff. I also have the full schedule as planned for RN in 
2009 but this is a formatted MS-Word document which can only be 
transmitted as an attached file and, as I gather the ASC List cannot 
accommodate attached files, I shall email this document directly to 
David and Tim.

More relevant documents are available from the web version and 
expansion of last night's "Media Watch" program on ABC TV.

There is now an abundance of other secondary reportage and personal 
commentary on the current situation in mainstream media which, taken 
together, exposes much of the internal maneuvering over the changes 
and the reactions to it.

Peter Pockley

>Delivered-To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
>From: "Timothy Thwaites" <timth at optusnet.com.au>
>To: <asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au>
>Date: Mon, 27 Oct 2008 23:11:22 +1100
>Subject: [ASC-list] FW: Fwd: Re: Defending specialist science programs on ABC
>Sender: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
>Posted by Tim Thwaites on behalf of David Horwood
>From: David Horwood [mailto:techlines at optusnet.com.au]
>Sent: Monday, 27 October 2008 6:40 PM
>To: thwaites at optusnet.com.au
>Subject: Re: [ASC-list] Fwd: Re: Defending specialist science programs on ABC
>Peter and Nick
>Further to the demise of Earthbeat, and the debacle that RN's 
>Saturday morning programming became, is there anyone who can provide 
>an accurate chronology of events two (?) years ago?
>We need to remember that earlier mess accurately when creating 
>objections to the current plans. What happened then demonstrates the 
>fallibility (I'm trying to be kind) of the program planners.
>My *hazy* memory is that it went something like this, spread over 
>quite a few months.
>Earthbeat and The Comfort Zone ceased. Replaced with Geraldine 
>Doogue's long magazine program, containing sparse remnants of 
>Earthbeat and TCZ provided by Alexandra de Blas and Alan Saunders.
>Saunders joins Doogue as a co-presenter, with a bit more TCZ type of content.
>By Design starts. It's virtually a carbon copy of TCZ.
>Alexandra de Blas leaves the ABC.
>Can anybody improve or add to this record?
>David Horwood
>At 12:13 PM 27/10/2008, you wrote:
>Thanks very much to Nick for alerting us to this additional axing, 
>which was not bundled with the announcement about the Radio National 
>cuts, presumably because it comes under a different line of 
>"management". The point Nick makes about the inadequacy of 
>substituting "podcasts" or "portals" for regular, broadcast programs 
>is identical to one of the major critiques of the decision re The 
>Religion Report. But, even this low-ranking placement of material 
>has not been offered to In Conversation (for which it would be an 
>entirely inappropriate format) nor for resuscitating Earthbeat, the 
>long-lost environment report.
>Peter Pockley
>Delivered-To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
>Date: Mon, 27 Oct 2008 11:50:15 +1100
>From: "Lomb, Nick" <NickL at PHM.GOV.AU>
>To: <asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au>
>Subject: Re: [ASC-list] Defending specialist science programs on ABC
>Don't forget that another successful ABC Science program has been 
>cut recently. That is Stuart Gary's StarStuff on NewsRadio. Judging 
>by comments that people made to me while the program was regularly 
>broadcast, it appealed to a wide number and range of people 
>including people with otherwise little interest in science. After 
>complaints to the ABC, the presenter has been allowed to put 
>together a weekly podcast 
>in his spare time. That is an unsatisfactory situation and the 
>program is likely to be reaching far less people than in the past.
>StarStuff should be included in any expressions of concern about the 
>loss of science programs on the ABC.
>Dr Nick Lomb
>Curator of Astronomy
>Sydney Observatory/Powerhouse Museum
>Phone: 61 (2) 9921 3480 Fax: 61 (2) 9921 3489
>Email: <blocked::mailto:nickl at phm.gov.au>nickl at phm.gov.au
>From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au [ 
><mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au>mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] 
>On Behalf Of Peter Pockley
>Sent: Monday, 27 October 2008 10:31 AM
>To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
>Subject: [ASC-list] Defending specialist science programs on ABC
>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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