4 December 2011

BBC Offers a Dumbed Down Version of Frozen Planet For American Media

Posted by Dan Satterfield


Will the Discovery Channel opt to just show the pretty pictures of penguins while leaving out the scientific facts? (Dan's pic at Cape Royds in Antarctica)

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.

That's me, just after landing in Antarctica. Riding on the same aircraft with Sir David Attenborough was an honor.

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.