Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Is The Biography Channel About To Misinform Viewers?

I wasn't going to post an update on my blog till tomorrow, as I'm in Florida on vacation right now. I spent yesterday evening with Bob & Mary Schindler, and this afternoon I visited Bobby and Suzanne at the new office they have set up for the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation. But I'll have more to say about that later.

I want to alert you to the fact that The Biography Channel is airing a program tonight about Terri Schiavo, as part of its "Notorious" series, which "highlights the people who have become famous – for being infamous." I'm not sure how Terri herself was "infamous" or "notorious", but that's a minor quibble.

Far more problematic is the fact that even in the episode description there are at least two egregious errors of fact, and it presents the very issue that was contended in the case as a matter of fact.

The description reads in part:
Schiavo had been in a vegetative state since suffering a heart attack in 1990, which caused brain damage. She was the subject of a high-profile legal battle between her husband and her parents. Her husband wanted physicians to remove the feeding tube, arguing that she was brain dead.

Firstly, Terri never had a "heart attack". She was never diagnosed as having had a heart attack, and the autopsy definitively disposed of that myth. Also, even Michael Schiavo and his lawyers never contended that Terri was "brain dead". If Terri had been "brain dead", the controversy about her would never have arisen.

Those two errors could have been easily avoided if the producers of the show had done even the most rudimentary research. But given that the description states as a matter-of-fact that Terri was in a "vegetative state", when that was one of the central issues of contention in the dispute, the lack of accuracy in presenting even the most basic facts is, unfortunately, not surprising. It would appear that the producers of this show are prepared to simply regurgitate the
MSM Approved ViewTM.

My suspicion regarding this is reinforced by this salient point: The Schindlers were never approached by anyone from The Biography Channel or A&E (The Biography Channel's parent company) for interviews or even any background material. The first that the Schindlers heard about this was today, in an e-mail from a friend. I suppose the program could rely only on already-published material, which would be merely lame on their part. But if they present Michael Schiavo or spokespeople for him without giving a similar opportunity to the Schindlers, then that would really be "notorious".

The show airs at 9:00 PM EST. I will try to watch it, but I may not have access to The Biography Channel. If any of you, dear readers, watch it, I'd appreciate a report.