And while numerous environmental organizations take the popularity of shark week to launch campaigns trying to make people aware of the plight of sharks worldwide, it is still Discovery’s programs that carry the majority of the public interest.
In the past, Discovery Channel has been greatly criticized for airing fear-mongering programs about killer sharks, and even crossing the line and airing programs that were highly speculative at best, downright lies at worst.
Programs about megalodons (the modern shark’s much larger predecessor) still roaming the depths of the oceans, were entirely fictional, and Discovery Channel has admitted as much, sticking a disclaimer on to the beginning of the program.
But the problem remained, disclaimer or not.
SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH SHARK WEEK?
And the problem was that a channel that in its own marketing claims to be a channel of documentaries, fell into a trap of populism, and aired programs that weren’t documentaries, but mockumentaries, and with that, blurred the lines between fact and fiction, and became plain and clear fear-mongering.
Discovery Channel’s new president, Rich Ross, went on record to state that the channel would not be airing fake programming anymore, a step much applauded by the science community and critics alike.
And while this year’s Shark Week wasn’t as bad as previous years’, it still wasn’t good.
Not that the programs weren’t good, in the sense that they were definitely entertaining and well-produced.
And it did seem like Discovery Channel had lived up to Rich Ross’ promise, there wasn’t a prehistoric mega-shark in sight.
However, the channel still did err a bit on the side of populism, and featured programs with such “neutral” titles as Monster Mako, Return of The Great White Serial Killer, and Sharksanity 2.
If all of this sounds like cheap horror movies to you, it’s probably for good reason.
BLOODY SHARKS SELL BETTER
Media that tickle our fear of sharks sells. The megalodon programs were Discovery’s most successful ever.
Jaws didn’t become the world’s first, true summer blockbuster by being scientifically accurate.
And TV programs that focus on the scientific aspects of sharks don’t get as many viewers as programs about killer sharks.
Read more about Sharks Just Being Sharks on dive.in.
PROTECTING THE REAL VICTIMS
Even if sharks generally aren’t the killers they’re made up to be, and in fact are more in need of our protection than anything else.
Because they do. They really do!
An estimated 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year. That’s more than 11,000 Sharks every hour.
Compare that to the dozen or so humans killed every year by sharks, and it is should be apparent who is the bigger threat to whom.
And programs that highlight the predatory aspects of sharks, while not necessarily incorrect, still over-emphasize an aspect of shark behavior that isn’t anywhere close to being the dominant one.
And ultimately, that leads to little more than fear-mongering, which is the last thing we, and the sharks of the world, need.
PREFERRED PROGRAMMING LIST
Instead of more killer shark-themed programs, I would love to see programs on conservation efforts around the world, or programs on the why sharks are critical to reef and ocean health.
Or hey, why not go all the way?
Make a “Human Week”, showing programs about the greatest predator in nature, mankind?
Now that would be scary.
So I am not a fan of Shark Week in its present form.
Because I am a fan of sharks, and I believe we should respect them, admire them, and protect them.
As we don’t protect what we fear.
This article was first featured on http://www.dive.in.