Catalyst (TV program)

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Country of originAustralia
Original languageEnglish
No. of series20
Executive producerAidan Laverty
ProducersPenny Palmer, Ingrid Arnott,[1] Geraldine McKenna, Paul Schneller, Matthew Lovering, Adam Collins, Karen Appathurai[1]
EditorsVaughan 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-present)
Original networkABC Television
Picture format1080p (HD)
Original release9 August 2001 (2001-08-09) –
Preceded byQuantum (1985–2001)
External links
[ Website]

Catalyst is an Australian science journalism television program broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). The program is currently 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 TV at 8:30 pm on Tuesdays and repeated at 6:00 pm on Sundays.


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:[2]

"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."

Each week Catalyst brings you stories from Australia and around the world.

Our passion to meet scientists at the forefront of discovery is matched by our fascination with science breakthroughs however big or small.

Science changes all our lives.

For better or worse, we are committed to showing you what our future holds.

Prime examples of Catalyst featured segments include "Corporate Psychopaths",[3] "The Truth About Vitamins",[4] and "Smell and Schizophrenia".[5]

The show originally was broadcast in a 30-minute format. Following a series of controversies and an internal review of the program, the ABC announced in November 2016 that Catalyst would shift to a 60-minute format starting in 2017.[6]

The new format utilises out-of-house experts in their respective fields, presenting 60-minute in depth documentaries. Episodes have included "The Great Australian Bee Challenge",[7] "Bionic Revolution",[8] "Feeding Australia"[9] and "The Secret To Making Better Decisions".[10]


The Catalyst team is composed of specialised science journalists, science communicators and producers, each with different specialisations and roles. Over Catalyst's history, the staff has included:

Presenters and reporters[edit]


  • 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, came under criticism from doctors and the National Heart Foundation of Australia.[11] 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.[12] In May 2014 the ABC removed both episodes from its website,[13] 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.[14]

"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.[15] 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".[16] 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.[17] 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.[18] It also led to the ABC reviewing the future strategy and direction of the program, leading to format changes for the following series.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "About Catalyst". Catalyst. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
  2. ^ "At Catalyst we know that science is a dynamic force for change", ABC website.
  3. ^ "Corporate Psychopaths". Catalyst. ABC TV Science. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
  4. ^ "The Truth About Vitamins". Catalyst. ABC TV Science. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
  5. ^ "Smell and Schizophrenia". Catalyst. ABC TV Science. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
  6. ^ "Catalyst staff to go in ABC revamp". TV Tonight. 4 November 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  7. ^ "Catalyst: The Great Australian Bee Challenge - Part One - ABC TV Science". Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  8. ^ "Catalyst: Bionic Revolution - ABC TV Science". Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Catalyst: Feeding Australia: Foods of tomorrow - ABC TV Science". Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  10. ^ "Catalyst: The Secret To Making Better Decisions - ABC TV Science". Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  11. ^ "Catalyst challenges the mainstream". Media Watch. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  12. ^ "Catalyst fallout: Heart Foundation warns patients stopping anti-cholesterol drugs, statins". ABC News. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  13. ^ "ABC will take down two controversial Catalyst episodes on heart disease". 12 May 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  14. ^ "Catalyst 'Heart of the Matter' Investigation Report" (PDF). 12 May 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  15. ^ "Experts hit out at claims Wi-Fi devices cause cancer". 17 February 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  16. ^ "ABC Catalyst program linking mobile phones to brain cancer 'should never have aired'". The Guardian. 17 February 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  17. ^ Armitage, Catherine (18 February 2016). "ABC's Catalyst criticised for linking Wi-Fi with brain tumours" (in American English). Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  18. ^ Lallo, Michael (7 July 2016). "Wi-Fried and statins: Catalyst fails its viewers with bad science journalism" (in American English). Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  19. ^ "ABC show's Catalyst presenter Dr Maryanne suspended after review of 'Wi-Fried' story on Wi-Fi". 6 July 2016. Retrieved 6 July 2016.

External links[edit]