Friday 20 July 2012

National Geographic Listens to Archaeologists Concerns About Their "Diggers" programme

Back in May Charles Ewen wrote about the National Geographic Channels "Diggers" programme ('Boom, Baby!' SHA Blog May 21st 2012)
The response from the archaeological community has been immediate and passionate.  People Against National Geographic Channel’s Diggers and Spike’s American Diggers Facebook pages have surfaced with thousands “liking” the message to Stop the Looting.  Professional archaeologists have taken to the media as well with the SAA speaking against the shows to NPR and other professionals speaking out in the St. Augustine Record.  Have they listened? Maybe. I recently attended a workshop convened by the National Geographic Society to discuss their new show. It seems they were genuinely surprised at the professional outcry over its airing. And, unlike SpikeTV, they were embarrassed and wanted to discuss what might be done. [...] I think the biggest takeaway that I had from the meeting was how badly we as archaeologists have failed in getting our message out to the general public. Or at least in persuading them as to what our discipline is really all about. It’s more than just finding stuff. [...] Our underwater colleagues have seen the public sympathies go out to the treasure salvors. Now it’s the terrestrial archaeologist’s turn to watch the viewing public tune-in to shows that portray archaeology as a lucrative scavenger hunt.
National Geographic heard the voice of the archaeological community; they pulled the show until they could get a sense of how to address the concerns of outraged archaeologists. The Portable Antiquities Scheme have yet to announce the schedule for their workshop to discuss the outrage over "Britain's Secret treasures". Oh, wait a minute, what "outrage"was there in Britain? Just a few "trolls" they'll say, "dinosaurs". Most of the British archaeological community are not overly bothered about the way their discipline is being presented to the public on prime time TV. "I only watched one programme [...]" said one British colleague this morning when I asked them for a reaction. There is still not a peep about the programme - either for or against on the CBA's discussion list Britarch, nor the BAJR Federation forum.

Anyway, back to the US, there is a followup post (Chris Ewen, 'National Geographic’s Diggers Redux', July 19th 2012) it details how National Geographic is rethinking their show to address archaeological concerns. In a letter to the profession the show’s producers propose five alterations to the format of the programme. None of them are present in the PAS-sponsored "Britain's Secret Treasures". How come that a programme touching on the same subject matter and created by a major TV Channel in collaboration with an organization that has been doing "outreach" for the past fifteen years is not suitable to be the MODEL for the production of the National Geographic's "Diggers" programme?
  Thanks to Nigel Swift for sending the link and his comments.

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