• 06 JUL 16
    • 0

    ABC bows to “vested interests” pressure and retracts the Catalyst WI-Fried program and suspends producer

    Bowing to a barrage of criticism, the ABC has retracted the Wi-Fried program that aired in February 2016 on ABC TV Australia, i.e. it has been removed from the website and it is no longer available.

    ABC has issued a statement on the website here:
    http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4494933.htm

    On 16 February 2016, Catalyst aired ‘Wi-Fried?’, a program about the safety of wireless devices such as mobile phones.

    The ABC’s independent Audience & Consumer Affairs (A&CA) unit investigated complaints about the program and found that it breached the ABC’s impartiality standards by unduly favouring the unorthodox perspective that wireless devices and Wi-Fi pose significant health risks.

    A&CA also identified several inaccuracies:

    • The program did not provide enough context for viewers to understand that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classification of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B)” was specifically based on a positive association found in some studies between heavy mobile phone use and glioma, and not on any potential risks having been found in relation to Wi-Fi use.
    • When citing the Bioinitiative Report, the program did not acknowledge its significant scientific criticisms and shortfalls, and consequently overstated its credibility and independence.
    • One statement in the program, “newer studies showing that people who begin to use cell phones regularly and heavily as teenagers have four to eight times more malignant glioma, that’s a brain tumour, ten years later”, was materially misleading as it overstated the risks identified in the relevant 2009 study, and implied that that study hadn’t been considered by the IARC in its 2011 decision to classify RF electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic.
    • Another statement, “When the bombs fell at the end of World War II on Japan, we followed every person who survived. Forty years is how long it took for brain cancer to develop after that exposure”, overstated the latency period for brain cancer.

    In recognition of these breaches of ABC editorial standards, the program has been removed from the ABC website. The full A&CA investigation report is available here: http://about.abc.net.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/FINAL-REPORT-Catalyst-WiFried-Investigation.pdf

    Comments by the public on this issue can be left on the message board here:
    http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4494933.htm

    The Wi-Fried program called for precautions in the absence of conclusive evidence but unfortunately, the overall message of the program will be over-shadowed by the decision to retract the program.

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    MY comment on the above: Predictably Rodney Croft leads the charge against the WI-Fried program and its producer. Quoting from the Brisbane Times, July 5:

    Rodney Croft, a global authority on the health effects of radiation and professor of public health psychology at the University of Wollongong, said at the time that the program had given weight to “a fringe position that is not supported by science”.
    “I was particularly disappointed to see Wi-Fried aired yesterday in the guise of science journalism,” he said.

    “Given that radiofrequency emissions are one of the most heavily researched agents that science has ever assessed, and given that (contrary to Catalyst’s claims) no substantiated health effects have emerged, we can be very confident that the emissions are indeed safe,” Professor Croft said.

    Its the same old mantra that Croft repeats at every opportunity. And that is the sad state of science understanding in Australia. Kill both the message and the messenger.

    Don

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