Shark Week Sensationalism that Sells

Lesley Rochat Photography - Great White Shark

JAWS portrayed white sharks as bloodthirsty killing machines with an insatiable appetite for humans and Discovery Channel continue the myth.

JAWS portrayed white sharks as bloodthirsty killing machines with an insatiable appetite for humans and Discovery Channel continue the myth. Sharks are being given a bad wrap again when Discovery Channel ‘Sinks Teeth Into Shark Week 2010’ with a lineup of programs, many of which depict sharks as bloodthirsty man-eaters. We desperately need improved public perception to win the battle against plummeting shark populations, and irresponsible TV and media portrayal of sharks’, which perpetuates poor perceptions of them, only adds to their threat. The media have immense power to help us save our planet’s resources through responsible reporting, or not. They can choose to continue accelerating the demise of these much maligned animals, which will ultimately result in our own downfall as everything in nature is connected; or they can support us and help us save them so we might save ourselves. It is a shame on Discovery Channel to see them continuing to work against the good efforts we as shark conservationists around the globe fight so hard to achieve, changing fear and loathing of sharks to much needed understanding and admiration.

But instead of me continuing to express my utmost disdain and irritation at the shortsighted, ignorant, high ratings, big dollar driven commissioning editors, and the like, at Discovery Channel, I will leave it up to fellow conservationist and multi-award winning filmmaker and author, Chris Palmer. Chris has spent 25 years producing more than 300 hours for prime time television and the giant screen (IMAX) film industry, and if anyone’s opinion should be respected it is his: “Teeth of death,” “Shark feeding frenzy,” “The Worst Shark Attack Ever.” It is that time of year again, when the Discovery Channel brings out shows like these as part of its annual “Shark Week” programming. This week of bloody feeding frenzies and vicious shark attacks is part of a larger trend in nature programming. Instead of seeking to educate or to promote environmental conservation, these shows focus only on presenting graphic, sensationalized animal violence. Programs like those in Shark Week – while they might garner high ratings and attract advertiser dollars – all too often mislead the audience, exploit animals, and fail to promote conservation.  It is easy to understand why Shark Week or other shows like “Untamed and Uncut”, “Man vs. Wild”, or “When Animals Attack” would attract viewers…” Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-palmer/shark-week—-education-o_b_660876.html

  1. Samantha TownsendSamantha Townsend07-29-2010

    I don’t agree with Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. Imagine if they change the content to informative documentaries which showed the beauty and importance of sharks – that is what the world needs to see. When will they learn, when it is too late perhaps? Activists have been lobbying against shark week for ages but it has not helped. It appears that money talks. This blog and Chris’s article says it all! People need to stand together against this. We must not give up just because we have not succeeded, YET!

  2. KimKim08-02-2010

    You are right, we do need to stop the way sharks are portrayed if we are to change the way we view and understand them. I have a 5 year old and ever since he saw a documentary about ‘scary’ sharks, which sensationlised them, he has been scared to swim in the sea. Now each time we go to the beach I have to go through a whole process to make him feel comfortable enough to get in the water. The harm done in an one hour documentary is long lasting.
    Thanks for the wonderful work you are doing to help change this. I do hope we can save the sharks in time.
    keep it up Lesley. Regards, Kim

  3. Amanda BarrattAmanda Barratt08-02-2010

    Yup Lesley, 100% spot on there! Discovery Shark week surely goes all out to exploit the fear in humans, which the media naturally taps into.

  4. QuestionQuestion08-18-2010

    I like your re-think the shark stuff especially the part where it says there were only 4 people killed by sharks last year. Markus Groth, Brian Guest, and several others not in your figures were killed by a shark last year (2008) but yet the figures you use don’t count them as being killed by a shark.

    You and most of the world know for a fact Markus was killed by a shark, but George Burgess says he was not properly killed by a shark so his death don’t count and your re-think the shark project uses figures you know to be un-true.

    Why?

  5. Scott BrightScott Bright02-22-2011

    Uh…sharks are called a keystone species. They maintain balance in our oceans. Showing
    shark's as fierce beast that eat humans on a whim is wrong. You Tube Maxine the shark.
    You'll see a story where Lesley Rochat became friends with a ragged tooth shark.
    Kind regards, Scott

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