Tonight on the National Geographic Channel: a TV show that’s “contrary to the ethics of American archaeological practice, highly destructive, and possibly illegal.”

Does John Fahey have any control over what’s broadcast on the National Geographic Channel? Or are David Lyle, Howard Owens, and the other guys from Fox actually calling all the shots?

Here’s the latest test case…

Tonight on the National Geographic Channel, a new series called Diggers has its premiere. From in Iowa:

Cedar Rapids Natives Land Extreme Metal Detecting TV Show

By Tish Mehaffey, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- Treasure hunter Tim Saylor is not above licking a clump of dirt if he loses a bet over finding a silver dollar, but he prefers it when his buddy loses and has to wear a yellow prom dress while riding his bike off the dock into the icy Montana waters.

George Wyant (left) and Tim Saylor shooting a promo for the TV series Diggers.

Saylor, a Cedar Rapids and Williamsburg native, started “extreme metal detecting” with friend George Wyant about 10 years ago when he moved to Anaconda, Mt. They even formed a company,, to share their zany exploits and tips with other hunters.

Saylor, an insurance software programmer, insists the fun isn’t about finding something worth thousands of dollars because he doesn’t sell most of what he finds. It’s “all about the chase,” silly stunts and antics along the way to digging up buffalo nickels, silver dollars, 1800s saloon tokens, Civil War artifacts, rings and any other treasures they find.

After writing a book, producing six DVDs, You Tube videos and a short appearance on Good Morning America showcasing their metal detecting prowess, Saylor and Wyant landed a series, “Diggers,” which premieres two episodes Feb. 28, on the National Geographic Channel.

“Treasure hunting shows are popular right now but they liked us because of the way we do it,” Saylor said laughing. “We had interest from 14 production companies and I thought ‘what is going on, why us,’ but they were looking for something entertaining and I guess we are. It’s just beyond dumb and over the top (our behavior). And we’re not afraid of the camera. We’re just being ourselves.” …

Problem is, professional archaeologists are appalled. Archaeology Southwest calls it “looting as reality TV,” and says the show “encourages and glorifies looting and the antiquities trade at the expense of American history.”

The Society for American Archaeology has called on John Fahey, CEO of National Geographic, to make changes to the show, which, the SAA says, is “contrary to the ethics of American archaeological practice, highly destructive, and possibly illegal.” Here’s the whole memo to John:

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In addition, more than 2,800 people have signed an online petition calling on National Geographic to stop airing the show. Scores of folks have also posted their reasons for signing (see the comments here, under the tab “About this petition”); most of them echo this lament:

Phil LeckmanAs a professional archaeologist I cannot believe that an institution as respected as the National Geographic Society would in any way support this kind of disregard for America’s historic heritage, to say nothing of the blind eye this program turns towards American historic preservation law. Dismaying and depressing.

Here’s the majority owner of the National Geographic Channel:

Rupert Murdoch


John Fahey National Geographic

Dear John,
Are you going to intervene?
Or are you unwilling (or perhaps powerless)
to stop Murdoch & Company
from their ongoing pistol whipping
of the National Geographic brand?

≡  Diggers promo graphic via KCRG in Iowa


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