Baby Bottle Blues

With the broadcasting bill about to pass, there’s a real sense of urgency now in both the radio and TV newsrooms. It means they will be able to make the transition from government-run media to public service broadcasters, run by an independent corporation. It’s an opportunity to reshape the job descriptions and salary structure in ways that are appropriate for a competitive news organization.
What may be more difficult is training all of the government agencies and even private companies in this country to deal with the newly aggressive reporters. Case in point: an excellent report by Shifla last night on a vitamin-selling company called Elken. Health care here is a big issue and a lot of people are easy game for those all-too-familiar vitamin product pyramid schemes. The Maldives Medical Association warned that the food supplement should not be used as a subsitute for real prescription drugs, especially for diabetics who try to substitute a product called spirulina for insulin. Shifla’s report showed scenes from the promotional DVD for the vitamin company, touting the product as a substitute for breast milk and showing a baby drinking a green liquid out of a bottle.
This brought a reaction from a health official who asked that we not show babies drinking out of bottles as it would undercut the national efforts to promote the benefits of breast feeding. I think that official missed the point that we were showing how the company sells its products to the public with dubious claims. So instead of blaming the journalists for reporting on this sales tactic, the health agency should see it as an opportunity to issue their own press release, warning mothers not to deny their babies the health benefits of breast feeding. Then we could do a follow up story, interviewing an expert on why breast milk is best.
Of course, there was the predictable call from the Elken company complaining that our report did not show the product in a glowing light. Companies here are accustomed to sending in press releases and hearing them read word for word on the air during the “business” section. Real consumer reporting is a new idea here.
Note: Shifla’s report did mention in the narration that the baby footage was part of a promotional DVD, but it should have been superimposed on the screen with a title as well, just to make it clear that it was not our footage.