Discovery Channel Promotes Shark Fear

The Discovery Channel promoted this year’s Shark Week by sending out media kits that plainly and disturbingly foster a fear of sharks. Here is a quote from a TV Guide article on the media kit and it’s “grisly” contents (see the picture after the quote):

“The Hollywood Reporter’s TV critic, James Hibberd, received what he described as ‘an unmarked box containing a frosted, seemingly rusted jar.’ What was inside the jar? A pair of bloody swimming trunks with one leg chewed off, a boat key attached to a flotation fob and a few other items.”

The creepiest bit? The fake, crumpled newspaper obituary that announced the writer’s untimely demise ‘Monday, July 6, of a grisly shark attack.’ “

The Discovery Channel's Shark Bite media kitOkay I am a web site marketer so I certainly see the value in getting the attention of media outlets to spark interest in a series of shows. That said, from a conservation perspective this is a horrid picture to paint for those trying desperately to dispel the fear that Sharks are man-eaters; they absolutely are not! Here is a quote from my Anti-Shark Finning “Save the Sharks” page that helps paint the true picture:

“The chance of being killed by a shark is one in 300 million. The chance of being killed by airplane parts falling from the sky is one in 10 million.”

Here are some additional facts from the guru of sharks, Dr. Samuel Gruber, interviewed on PBS’s NOVA:

“Most sharks are far too small to be vicious killers of men and women, and many sharks live in the deep sea where no humans swim. The fact remains that around 100 shark attacks do occur each year, but elephants are bigger killers; they do in 200-plus mahoots and trainers each year. Talk about vicious—dogs kill thousands. And get this: Soda machines killed more people last year than sharks did. People get angry at the machines when they steal the $0.75 the person honestly inserts for a cool, refreshing soda. But if no soda comes out, people often viciously attack the machine, trying to make it cough up the soda or the cash. The machines viciously retaliate by falling on and crushing their tormentors.”

So let me be fair. Perhaps Discovery Channel does help dispel the shark myths and the media kit was just a tease to get people to watch their channel and have their minds changed. Let’s examine their “Shark Week” page along with it’s show line up:

First, here is the introduction on the Shark Week page:

“We’re bringing this summer’s chills and thrills with SHARK WEEK 2009. Discovery Channel is taking viewers into the deadliest waters to meet the most dangerous sharks and learn the why’s and how’s behind some of the most memorable shark attacks. Specialists and Discovery stars alike are diving in!”

Shark Week by the Discovery Channel - portraying sharks badlyOkay, that isn’t looking so good. What about the show line up?

  • Blood in the Water – 2 hour premiere
  • Deadly Waters
  • Day of the Shark 2
  • Sharkbite Summer
  • Great White Appetite
  • Shark After Dark

Get the picture? At least by the presentation of Shark Week and the show names Discovery Channel has done sharks a massive disservice by continuing to portray the ocean’s greatest predator as something to be feared. Even the slogan on the Shark Week page is “Fear Returns Aug 2, 2009”.

What are shark conservationalists supposed to do when even a major, respected media source like Discovery Channel displays sharks as man-eaters to get more viewers? It definitely paints a sad picture and it has made me very displeased with one of my favourite TV networks. If you feel the same way I do, please help by Tweeting your displeasure to either of the Discovery Channel’s Twitter addresses (or better yet, both!): @discovery @discoverycanada . Send them to this page if you think that will help them get the point.

Here are some additional myth-busting stories about sharks:

Are You Willing to Help Protect the Sharks? You can easily make a difference!

If you would like to help protect sharks here are a few options: