Discovery Channel going back to basics says new president

New Discovery Channel president Rich Ross unveils his plans for the broadcaster in January 8, 2015, in Pasadena, Calif. Richard Shotwell / Invision / AP Photo
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Newly appointed Discovery Channel president Rich Ross says viewers can expect to see the channel return to its factual roots under his tenure.

The channel has attracted criticism recently for broadcasting fictional, pseudo-documentaries that appeared at face value to be legitimate and factual traditional docs, particularly during last year's Shark Week, and in stablemate Animal Planet's misleading programmes about mermaids.

At the channel’s launch of its 2015 schedule in Pasadena at the weekend, Ross said: “It’s not that I’m not a fan of that sort of thing, but I just don’t think that’s actually right for Discovery Channel.

“It’s something that I think has in some ways run its course. I don’t think it’s a question you’ll be sitting here next year asking me. It’s something that’s done really well sometimes, but it’s something I don’t really think is right for us.

“It’s very important to me that we offer information that is true, and that also can be entertaining as well.”

Despite being barely 72 hours into his new job, Ross also addressed the controversy surrounding the headline-grabbing programme Eaten Alive.

The snake-themed doc caused a stir by implying that its host, snake expert Paul Rosolie, would be eaten alive by an anaconda – then provoked further controversy when, perhaps unsurprisingly, he wasn’t.

“The way I look at it, it was the right intention, but with a packaging that was misleading,” said Ross. “I think in his mind he thought it was actually possible, but then the fervour of the story got out of control.

“Whether it would be a better title with a question mark at the end, for me I’d rather be in a situation where the story is clear and you don’t expect something at the end that couldn’t possibly happen.

“I don’t believe you’ll be seeing a person being eaten by a snake during my time here. I can’t overpromise on that, but that’s how I feel tonight.”

cnewbould@thenational.ae