The CSIRO Film Unit (1948–2014) made research, educational and public relations films, videos and multi-media on behalf of various Divisions of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Non-theatrical distribution of 16 mm film and video had significant impact in schools, industry and community settings. Dedicated personnel working in the under-examined ‘utilitarian’ sector of film production have contributed substantively to science communications in Australia. The films offer a coherent and accessible body of work amenable to further thematic analysis oriented to discourses of ecology and environmentalism, explanatory idioms of the techno-sciences, film in agricultural extension work and scientific film. An outline of science programing in Australian broadcasting observes a fraught history. Questions around science communications and political ideology, and information, entertainment and critique in the scientific film are raised. It is argued that both ABC and CSIRO films were conditioned by bureaucratic and political conditions influencing their science communications practice.