‘Mermaids’ makes big ratings splash: But was it ethical?

It’s not the first time something like this has happened. ‘The War of the Worlds’ adaptation, which aired on the CBS radio network, caused quite a commotion in 1938. The New York Times reported that “a wave of hysteria seized thousands of radio listeners between 8:15 and 9:30 o’clock last night when a broadcast of the dramatization of H.G. Wells’s fantasy, ‘The War of the Worlds,’ led thousands to believe that an interplanetary conflict had started with invading Martians spreading wide death and destruction in New Jersey and New York.”

Recently, a pseudo-scientific documentary titled “Mermaids: The Body Found” forced the National Ocean Service to make an unusual response to public inquires following the TV broadcast. It seems that some people mistook the pseudo-scientific documentary for a factual-scientific documentary.

As for Animal Planet, the channel on which the documentary was broadcast, well they had the best-ever May ratings in network history.

So, back to my original question, was it ethical for Animal Planet to broadcast “Mermaids: The Body Found”? Morally responsible? Responsible marketing? None of the above? Or all of the above? I’m curious to know what you think.

Image: New York Times

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