Catalyst (TV program)

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Presented byGraham Phillips
Theme music composerDavid Chapman, Zig Zag Lane[1]
Country of originAustralia
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons16
Executive producer(s)Aidan Laverty, Ingrid Arnott[1]
Producer(s)Geraldine McKenna, Paul Schneller, Matthew Lovering, Adam Collins, Karen Appathurai[1]
Editor(s)Vaughan Smith, Andrew Glover, Meredith Hopes, Rowan Tucker-Evans, Chris Spurr, Lile Judickas[1]
Camera setupKevin May, Ron Ekkle[1]
Running time30 minutes (2001-2016)
60 minutes (2017-)
Original networkABC
Picture format480p (SD)
Original release9 August 2001 – present
Preceded byQuantum (1985–2001)
External links

Catalyst is the ABC's primary science journalism television series and the only science show on primetime television in Australia. Launched in 2001, it replaced Quantum, which had ceased the previous year. Catalyst is regularly broadcast on ABC 1 at 8:00 pm on Tuesdays and at 11:30 am Saturdays, and is also repeated on ABC News 24 on Saturdays at 4:30 pm.

Catalyst celebrated its tenth year of production in 2010.


The show broadcasts stories on scientific themes, and in particular significant recent developments and discoveries. It focuses primarily on stories relevant to Australia, but the series covers international developments as well. It attempts to convey information in a way that is not only accurate but also interesting and informative to the general population, often discussing the ethical, political, and other implications of scientific discoveries and research as well as the discoveries themselves.

The show's website describes it as follows:[1]

"Catalyst, Australia's flagship weekly science program, showcases Australian and global science discoveries that impact us all.

At Catalyst we know that scientific discovery and the use of scientific knowledge is a dynamic force that can inspire and activate us.

With our exciting mix of science genres viewers are exposed to extraordinary topics, empowering us all to improve our lives through a better understanding of how science shapes our world."

— [1]

Prime examples of Catalyst featured segments include "Corporate Psychopaths",[2] "The Truth About Vitamins",[3] and "Smell and Schizophrenia".[4]

The show originally was broadcast in a 30-minute format. Following a series of controversies and an internal review of the programme, the ABC announced in November 2016 that Catalyst will shift to a 60-minute format starting 2017.[5] The new 2017 format utilises out-of-house talent who are experts in their respective fields, presenting 60-minute in depth documentaries. Documentaries aired have included virtual reality, driverless cars, dinosaurs, heart surgery, aliens and seaweed.


The Catalyst team is composed of specialised science journalists, each with different specialisations and roles.


  • Dr. Maryanne Demasi, science journalist, medical research scientist
  • Dr. Derek Muller, physicist
  • Dr. Jonica Newby, veterinarian
  • Dr. Graham Phillips, astrophysicist
  • Anja Taylor
  • Dr Jordan Nguyen, biomedical engineer
  • Professor Tim Flannery, palaeontologist and environmental activist
  • Dr Nikki Stamp, cardiothoracic and transplant surgeon
  • Professor Alan Duffy, physicist
  • Dr Shalin Naik
  • Dr Caroline West, GP


  • Dominique Pile
  • Amy Sherden
  • Ariane Hall
  • Claire Smith


A series of episodes (Heart of the Matter, Parts 1 and 2) broadcast in October 2013 which questioned the link between saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease, as well as the widespread use of anti-cholesterol drugs known as statins, have come under fire from doctors and the National Heart Foundation of Australia.[6] The Foundation estimates that in the wake of those episodes up to 55,000 patients may have stopped taking their medication, leading to a potential increase in heart attacks and strokes over the next five years.[7] In May 2014 the ABC removed both episodes from its website,[8] after an internal review found that the second episode (but not the first) involved one breach of ABC standards on impartiality and there was a problem of omission of important information.[9]

Wi-Fried?, an episode broadcast in February 2016 featuring American epidemiologist Devra Davis courted further controversy by claiming that electromagnetic radiation emitted by devices such as mobile phones lead to an increased risk of brain cancer in heavy users, contrary to the mainstream view that exposure to such emissions is largely safe.[10] The show faced criticism from local experts, viewers and scientists disputing the episode's claims, with public health professor Simon Chapman stating that "this is not the first time Catalyst have aired a questionable episode, and there really needs to be a review of their editorial process".[11] An investigation by the ABC's independent Audience and Consumer Affairs Unit found that the episode breached editorial policies standards on accuracy and impartiality, later leading to the withdrawal of the episode from the ABC website.[12] The controversy led to the temporary suspension of reporter Dr. Maryanne Demasi from the show and is the second time since Heart of the Matter, Parts 1 and 2 to have breached editorial standards.[13] It also led to the ABC reviewing the future strategy and direction of the program, leading to format changes for the following season.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "About Catalyst". Catalyst. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
  2. ^ "Corporate Psychopaths". Catalyst. ABC TV Science. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
  3. ^ "The Truth About Vitamins". Catalyst. ABC TV Science. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
  4. ^ "Smell and Schizophrenia". Catalyst. ABC TV Science. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
  5. ^ "Catalyst staff to go in ABC revamp". TV Tonight. 2016-11-04. Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  6. ^ "Catalyst challenges the mainstream". Media Watch. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  7. ^ "Catalyst fallout: Heart Foundation warns patients stopping anti-cholesterol drugs, statins". ABC News. ABC News. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  8. ^ "ABC will take down two controversial Catalyst episodes on heart disease". 2014-05-12. Retrieved 2014-05-12.
  9. ^ "Catalyst 'Heart of the Matter' Investigation Report" (PDF). 2014-05-12. Retrieved 2014-05-12.
  10. ^ "Experts hit out at claims Wi-Fi devices cause cancer". 2016-02-17. Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  11. ^ "ABC Catalyst program linking mobile phones to brain cancer 'should never have aired'". The Guardian. 2016-02-17. Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  12. ^ Armitage, Catherine (2016-02-18). "ABC's Catalyst criticised for linking Wi-Fi with brain tumours". Retrieved 2016-08-16.
  13. ^ Lallo, Michael (2016-07-07). "Wi-Fried and statins: Catalyst fails its viewers with bad science journalism". Retrieved 2016-08-16.
  14. ^ "ABC show's Catalyst presenter Dr Maryanne suspended after review of 'Wi-Fried' story on Wi-Fi". 2016-07-06. Retrieved 2016-07-06.

External links[edit]