4 December 2011
BBC Offers a Dumbed Down Version of Frozen Planet For American Media
Posted by Dan Satterfield
Sir David Attenborough’s arrival at McMurdo Station, Antarctica in January 2010 was the talk of the continent. I know, because I was on the same C-17 he flew in on and he was the talk of the aircraft too! His very name conjures up over 50 years of incredible stories about the world we live in, and what is best about television. Now, he was arriving to tell the story of the wildlife and humans that live in the harshest landscape on Earth.
Most of the UK have now seen six parts of his already acclaimed series Frozen Planet, and I can tell you that it is without doubt the best documentary he and the BBC have ever done on nature. It truly is superb, and having talked with a BBC cameraman while I was on the ice, it was a herculean effort. The sad fact is that viewers in many other countries will only get part of the picture.
It seems the BBC has had trouble selling the entire seven part program, because the last part deals with the effects of climate change on the frozen parts of our planet. They are offering a shorter version, without the cold hard facts, to countries where scientific truth can hurt ratings. Leaving that out would be like doing a documentary on the 1960’s, but leaving out the Vietnam war!
While I can understand the BBC wanting to recover the costs of producing Frozen Planet by selling it abroad, it is a tragic mistake to leave out the real science. The BBC is by far the world’s best producer of science based news programs and this will damage its hard earned reputation.It will be interesting to see of the Discovery Channel decides to just show pretty pictures while leaving out the rest of the story. If they do, they will certainly deserve the criticism they will receive.
Based on some of the junk science I have seen on cable recently, it wouldn’t surprise me. Perhaps Sir David should have added a bit about space aleins building pyramids at the South Pole. That would have gotten 50 plays on late night American cable TV.
Note: You can see a clip from this incredible series here.
I’m looking forward to buying that series when it is out. I see Amazon.com has it for preorder, but I’m not preordering it because 1) they may (yet again) substitute someone else’s voice for Sir David’s, and 2) I want to make sure it has that 7th episode.
Incidentally, our local library ordered Planet Earth early, not realizing that it was the one that substituted Sir David’s voice with someone else (was the Oprah or Sigourney Weaver?–both have been used before). Anyway, they had so many complaints from patrons they bought the Sir David version as well (and if IIRC they complained to the place they bought the first version and received some sort of refund or voucher for future purchases).
Incidentally, neither the US nor the Canadian Amazon stores sell Sir David’s The Truth About Climate Change. I’m a bit surprised that the US store carries his Darwin and the Tree of Life DVD–thought that would have been banned too.
I was rather appalled as well that they covered over his voice on Planet Earth. TV execs must think that Americans cannot understand a British accent! Unfortunately David, this kind of thing is the norm, not the exception. You might be surprised to know that Antiques Road Show and Who Wants to be a Millionaire are also British programs. You can probably order Frozen Planet from the BBC and get all 7 episodes, at least in a year or so….
The BBC have responded to claims the climate science was left out with a far less controversial explanation
It is a language issue, while most of the series doesn’t show Attenborough on screen much, so it is much easier to dub it into another language than the final episode. 112 of the 123 territories the BBC have sold it to will show all 7 episodes, I don’t think this is the BBC’s fault (but as a Brit I am a little protective of the BBC…)
It will be interesting to see if the Discovery Channel do show the 7th episode though
I can fully understand the BBC’s position, and they have a responsibility to the lic. fee payer as well. I guess I should say thanks on behalf of the rest of the world to those of you in the UK who fund the BBC! No one does science better than they.