Mar
13
2009

PBS's Mission: 'Raise Money by Exploiting Viewers' Gullibility'

Neurologist Robert Burton warns Salon readers (3/12/09, ad-viewing required) of PBS's latest infomercial. "By airing another self-help show disguised as medical science–the dubious UltraMind Solution–the public network continues to undermine its credibility," Burton writes:

In May I reported that PBS stations were airing medical programs that weren't adequately reviewed or vetted by either the local station or parent PBS corporation. My concern was that publicly funded stations were broadcasting questionable medical claims, made by Daniel Amen, M.D., about unproven methods for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease, without properly warning viewers the information was controversial. I suggested that, at the very least, the stations should present a clearly visible banner or disclaimer that the program doesn't represent the views of the local station or PBS….

Unfortunately, nearly a year has passed and nothing has changed. Last week, I turned to my local PBS station, KQED, and ran headlong into yet another program of medical self-promotion. Mark Hyman, M.D., a family physician, was talking about "brain fog" and "broken minds" and how such "conditions" could be cured or prevented by using "The UltraMind Solution"–a combination of books, DVDs and home questionnaires.

Hyman's truly insane claim that "diseases don't exist" spurs Burton to exclaim that airing such "dubious science" serves to "demean viewers' reasons for watching public television. Apparently PBS's mission is to raise money by exploiting viewers' gullibility at the expense of trustworthy programming. If so, it has achieved its goal–and undermined the central reason for having educational TV in the first place."