The Multiple Personalities of National Geographic

Friday, March 30, 2012


Last month, the NatGeo channel unveiled "Diggers," a show about treasure hunters with metal detectors that the Society for American Archaeology said glorifies looting. "Diggers" is only one of a slew of pulp non-fiction shows on the NatGeo Channel that would surprise anyone familiar with the more-then-century-old National Geographic Magazine. Bob speaks to SAA president Fred Limp, National Geographic Society CEO John Fahey, and NatGeo Channel CEO David Lyle.


Oddisee - All Along The River


John Fahey, Fred Limp and David Lyle

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [11]

joe from colorado

I understand digging our national treasures in certain places but you ppl are ridicilous you think you are the only ones that should dig, well get off your asses and dig or sit down and let others enjoy a good relaxing hobby your laws are a power trip, I enjoy digging for treasure and lets not forget how many metal detectorist that have made major discoveries, where were you why didn't you find the saxon treasure, why don't you just leave ppl alone and worry about your own back yard.

Apr. 26 2012 09:06 PM
Becca Huston from NYC

It's about time people started noticing the lack of substance on Nat Geo TV. With a world full of astounding discoveries they have set the bar to create the same garbage as Spike TV.

Didn't Nat Geo fly a house with balloons not too long ago? What happened with that program? I tried finding that program but all I could find was "rocket city red necks" - a boring, transparent, and not-so educational show about a bunch of southern boys building toys in their backyard.

Bring back real scientific feats!

Apr. 15 2012 08:23 PM

Thanks for a great piece, Bob.

One point worth noting: John Fahey says a new management team is now in place to address the problems with the National Geographic Channel (e.g., tabloid shows w/men in diapers... lesbians in a Brazilian jail... gangs... hookers... Nazis... and so on.); John says the Channel's new CEO David Lyle is evaluating the whole programming slate to get a greater percentage of NG shows to be consistent with the NG brand & the Society's mission.

I applaud the sentiment, but the fact is that blue-chip documentary producers at Nat Geo "departed" to make room for David Lyle, Howard Owens, and the rest of the crew from Fox who are now running the Channel. Whatever the blue-chippers were doing, it wasn't enough. ..... As John Fahey observes, the Nazi, drugs, sex & cop shows are what draws a crowd & pays the bills, which is why the Channel continues airing shows like "Sex For Sale."

The problem at National Geographic isn't the lack of advisory panels or insufficient executive oversight. The problem is National Geographic's broken business model which is, as John Fahey essentially admitted: Trash for cash.

Or as Bob put it: "Brazilian women in prison subsidizing voyages to the bottom of the sea."

Our Society — and our society — can do much better.

Alan Mairson
Society Matters

Apr. 05 2012 10:07 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

When I read John Fahey, I think 12-string guitar,so...

When I read National Geographic, I think of my 8th grade American history class with the wonderful Mrs. Carrie Goodridge Doody reading to us letters from her son, Dan, from his Society-sponsored trip to take photos on the first American summit of Everest with the 1959 Viesturs expedition. It was further emblazoned in my memory when Dan, a proud '58 grad along with his friend my eldest brother, came to our near-by high school with a slide show and lecture that I eagerly attended, which was then followed by his tragic death on Mt. McKinley.

Still, get over your hypocrisy people. Even as an 11-year old, I knew the indivisible main reason some boys wanted to get their mitts (pun intended) on the piles of Grandpa's mags lying in the attic was to gawk at native women's naked breasts!

Apr. 05 2012 12:15 AM
Brett Wagner

actually the DIggers show is quite entertaining and calling the guys looters who uncover our past in the ground is not looting ...Grow up and change the channel if you dont like it

Apr. 04 2012 12:56 PM
Lenore from Manhattan

Thanks to the person who mentioned TLC, which has gone the same dismal way. And Animal Planet is also now showing trash TV animal shows. Is there no end? OTOH, all this trash means that I have time to do useful things and to turn off the TV, so that's a good thing.

Apr. 03 2012 12:02 PM

The National Geographic Channel is killing the National Geographic Society all for some cheap ratings. If the Society has veto power over programming, they should use it as much as possible, not reluctantly. I am an archaeologist because of National Geographic's educational programming on PBS when I was growing up. I cancelled our membership to the magazine and Society because of the terrible programming on its channel. Many natural and social scientists have abandoned National Geographic as I have, and we are their base. National Geographic can't afford to lose their base of support and their reputation and integrity just so Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. can turn a quick profit riding on their name.

Apr. 03 2012 12:24 AM
Brandyn Moore

Hosted by Bob Garfield, this podcast disgusts that channels that were once used for education and knowledge have now turned into pulp fiction. Channels like the national geographic channel that hold a show called “diggers” and “pawn stars”. It’s saying that what these shows are teaching is just wrong which follow treasure hunters with metal detectors which are then used to find treasures in order to sell them. In the show there were high priced hookers, men in diapers, women in prison, and Nazi’s so as you can see people were more disturbed than offended. The behavior these shows hold is unbearable and barbaric; it’s not something that should be aired all the time or at all really. The shows performed these unsightly acts only seem to stem from wanting to keep their financial value up, they aren’t thinking of what it’s doing to their viewers. Spike TV is the channel that the shows are being aired on and this is the channel that is basically uncensored for viewers, Fred Limp makes a remark that national geographic channel is held to a higher standard than Spike TV. The CEO of National Geographic was also shocked at the behavior on spike TV but he explained that he and everyone were a little naïve when it came to the archeologist and the fact that it was a major topic for them. He spoke to other organization and apologized for what happened but never said that it wouldn’t end up happening again so I guess they will see.

Apr. 02 2012 09:50 PM
Rafael from Glen Burnie, MD

I wish you Bob Garfield would have pressed the Manager of NatGeo channel on the difference between the National Geogrpahic Society's board promise to steer the balance from all reality TV toward a more balance between the "highbrow" documentaries and reality TV. It seems that the National Geographic Society's role is more like a toothless watchdog over the NatGeo Channel's management.

While the National Geographic Society said that they were going for a total reboot of the Channel's fare to strike a better balance between the educational and the reality TV aspects of the channel, the channel's CEO goal is to make the channel as profitable as possible in the 18-54 demographics. This, along with the National Geographic Society's reluctance to use its veto power on programing, means that NatGeo will be following the path blazed by the paragon of educational television gone wrong, TLC (you know, what used to be known The Learning Channel?).

Apr. 02 2012 12:57 PM
Don S. from Walnut Creek, CA

I was so pleased to hear your remarks today about the trash on TV that is being blessed with the National Geographic seal of approval. It would appear to be simply a question of boosting ratings on the cable networks, etc., and a corporation or two (or three) making more money with higher Nielson ratings, etc. I don't expect the Nat Geo program to change its course to any degree but I was pleased to learn that other people, besides myself, were horrified by what passes under the Nat. Geo banner. Keep up the good work.

Apr. 02 2012 12:09 AM
Eric from Concord MA

I'm grateful for your exposure of the content you found in "Diggers"
I hope Nat Geo is REALLY embarrased, they should be.
I don't buy the excuse that the people involved didn't know any better. I think it is more likely the people who were in charge didn't know any better and if this is the case they really need to be dismissed.
With only 30% control can N.G. turn around this misguided notion that you can't find an audience unless you appeal to the lowest common denominator? Why on earth would they choose to partner with News Corp?
I have found the Mag to be very worthwhile, and I know I will be rewarded it I pick it up and look inside. If I associated the Mag with the stupidity(STUPIDITY!) you found in the t.v. program, I wouldn't touch it. And I would gladly heap ridicule on anyone who did. Tell John Fahey to put that in his pipe and smoke it.

Mar. 31 2012 02:05 PM

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