The MTV hoax that backfired

Published on: April 2, 2013
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In 1938, Orson Welles, an American actor and future director narrated a series depicting the end of the world as we know it through radio waves across America. The broadcast was interrupted several times by messages stating that the episode was fictional. However the style in which it was narrated, mimicking that of a news broadcast, sent several Americans into a state of public hysteria.

“The War of the Worlds” episode was followed by public outrage on the part of media persons and officials, whereby the ethics of media broadcasts and publications were heavily debated.

What MTV did last night resembles the 1938 spoof, in a sense that it violated codes of ethics by pranking the Lebanese public through a trusted information medium: the news. MTV had interrupted their normal broadcast with a “Breaking News” flash to announce that several fishermen had gone missing in the Dora port.

Following the hoax, Civil Defense units rushed to the scene of the alleged accident to conduct search and rescue operations. Only there was nothing to look for.

Here the ethics of the news persons at MTV should be at question, not LBCI’s. A respected media outlet would not use the news platform as a space for spoofs and jokes of a severe nature, i.e., the disappearance of fishermen at sea. On the other hand, the Civil Defense are also to blame in this regard in terms of confirming the news to LBCI prior to their own best knowledge. Please mark that LBCI did contact the supervision of head of regional maritime rescue unit, Samir Yazbek, who confirmed that a search and rescue operation was underway. On the other hand, phone calls from concerned family members raged as concerned citizens called in to learn of loved ones who work at the Dora port as fishermen.

In yesterday’s blog , I had written of how the BBC and other European news outlets tricked people on April Fools’, only the nature of the pranks were so mild, resulting in minimal damage. e.g.: the BBC once announced that Swiss farmers had successfully grown a spaghetti tree. I mean who on God’s great Earth would believe in a spaghetti tree? But people did, although it was 1957.

Towards the end of the blog you will find the Orson Welles video that left thousands in a state of panic in 1938.

Please note that Orson Welles delivered a public apology , relaying sincere remorse for the repercussions of the broadcast.

But will we hear such an apology from MTV? Or at least learn of a compensation for the losses entailed on the part of the Civil Defense units who went out in search of nothing?

I think not. But I will leave it up to readers to make a judgment in this regard.

Don’t get me wrong, mistakes DO happen, however basking in the glory of a false triumph is nothing but an empty victory at the end of the day.

News is not to be tampered with for kicks and laughs.

MTV…the hoax that backfired.

For the update on this story please click on this link

via blogbaladi

via blogbaladi

is currently the editor/blogger for LBCI Online English News and LBCBlogs. She received her Honors in Communication Arts (Media Production) from The University of Western Sydney in 2008.

6 Comments add one

  1. You’re 100% right… Shame on MTV for spreading such a horrifying news… As if the real news aren’t worrying enough!

  2. Habib says:

    There have been a lot of questionable April Fool’s jokes on Lebanese news over the years. There have been some on LBC as well. Something to do with Bin Laden if I remember.

    • lbcblog says:

      Habib, I am not disputing wether or not a TV can broadcast an April Fools’ joke, but the nature of the hoax has to be one that does not cause any grievances. As I mentioned the BBC did it, but it chose a prank that was non threatening to the public. I think we can all remember when the last time Lebanese fishermen “disappeared” at sea here in Lebanon both on the North and Southern shores. To say that fishermen mysteriously disappeared in Dora sparked panic among many thinking their loved ones had been abducted by foreign forces.

  3. Pingback: The MTV hoax that backfired – update | LBC Blogs

  4. E.T. says:

    A bit too extremists, aren’t we? I mean come on you cannot blame MTV for pulling a joke just to defend LBCI. As a matter of fact, LBCI did not have the rights to send a news alert stating “Sources tell LBCI…”, they could’ve said “MTV:..” and this would have left a less negative view to LBCI. It’s sad to see LBCI post something defending itself and attacking MTV, it shows how much MTV has traumatized LBCI and gained its success. Thank you.

    • lbcblog says:

      Dear Mr.ET,
      I am stating facts, if you wish to remain skeptical, that’s your business, but please do not explain the lack of professionalism and ill intent with naive school yard competition arguments.
      The only sad thing here is that a viewer has failed to see the lack of ethics in a tv station breaking the codes of journalism and a governmental employee complying with that tv station.
      May I remind you that this is a tv station you’re getting news from and a governmental employee who is supposed to save your life in case of an emergency.
      I have the right to blame MTV for the bad joke, just like most people did, and be sure that I would do the same had LBCI done so. My criticism as demonstrated through several blogs and op-ed’s is indicative of that.
      Now just imagine the following breaking news:
      MTV: Explosion in (your most loved ones workplace), two people dead….funny eh ?

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