At TV.com, there is a fascinating account of the evolution of the Sci Fi Channel, once cable’s reliable source for science fiction programming, into SyFy, which is nothing of the sort. As the article points out, the two individuals who have run the channel since 2002, Bonnie Hammer and Dave Howe, appear not to like, understand, or trust the genre their channel supposedly was dedicated to advancing. Now, having cancelled the two shows its science fiction fans most enjoyed, “Caprica” and “Stargate Universe,” SyFy is a bona fide whatsis, with a schedule that includes professional wrestling, cheesy horror movies, ghost hunter and psychic reality shows, and whatever else Hammer and Howe think will attract what they regard as a non-geek audience.
Here is the problem: if a project, enterprise, or mission has to turn into something else entirely to achieve what its management considers success, then it has already failed. If the original objective was worth pursuing, then integrity and honesty requires that either new leadership dedicated to the core mission be recruited, or the project should end.
It is clear from the various comments in the article that neither Howe nor Hammer ever respected either the Sci Fi Channel’s core audience and genre programming. That being the case, it was unethical for them to accept the challenge of running it. If Disney has to become a porn company to stay in the black, it has an obligation to just fold its tents and start a new company with a different mission. Having the Cartoon Channel run by people who don’t like cartoons, or the Soap Opera Channel run by people who think soap operas are stupid, or the History Channel operated by suits who think history is boring, is unfair to the vision, the mission, and the audience of those channels.
Yet the Sci Fi Channel was placed in the hands of executives who looked upon science fiction and its fans as obstacles to profitability. As a result, even if their business model “succeeds”, the mission of having a science fiction cable channel will have failed.
The absence of integrity is fatal.
[Ethics Alarms thanks Professor Bainbridge for the link.]