BBC's Frozen Planet: Educate, inform, entertain - as long as it doesn't upset climate sceptics

The Sceptic Tank is none too impressed with the BBC's decision to censor its nature documentary for foreign audiences

15 Nov 2011, 11:20

If you listen really carefully you can probably hear it: the sound of Lord Reith rotating slowly in his coffin. At this distance it sounds remarkably like a Greenland glacier breaking up.

It emerged today that the BBC has adopted a new, slightly more cumbersome motto: "Educate, inform and entertain – just so long as the educate and inform part doesn't piss off lucrative foreign markets."

Rumours are also circulating that "nation shall speak peace unto nation" will from now on feature the coda, "as long as they are not talking about anything too contentious".

In case you missed it, the Telegraph today reported the BBC's latest flagship wildlife documentary, Frozen Planet, has been broken up into two versions for sale to foreign markets: one version featuring all seven episodes, including the key show on the impact climate change is having on the poles; and one where the climate change episode has been ditched and viewers can enjoy all the fluffy little animals, safe from the knowledge that their habitat is disappearing beneath them.

Unsurprisingly, (and this is more the fault of the scientific and political community than the BBC), 10 of the 30 networks to buy the show have opted for the censored version. There is no prize for guessing the US is among those markets where TV execs have decided they do not like scientific reality to impinge upon their inspiring nature footage.

The Sceptic Tank was depressed enough at this news, and then the BBC started trotting out its excuses.

Apparently, the climate change episode features a lot of footage of David Attenborough talking about climate change to a camera, and because he is not globally famous (how can this be?) some networks wanted to cut that bit. Also, US broadcaster the Discovery Channel had "scheduling issues" and has decided to cut bits from the climate change episode into other parts of the series.

Apologies for our cynicism, but this sounds more than a little bit like straw clutching.

The Sceptic Tank is not one to question others' editorial decisions, but it appears the BBC now has two options available: it must admit it has defied virtually every aspect of its remit and ditched the climate change episode to keep foreign markets happy, or it must apply the same editorial standards to all its shows.

We happily anticipate the foreign edition of Brian Cox's Wonders of the Universe, specially tailored for religious fundamentalist markets, where all mentions of the Big Bang are expunged, just as we await the vegetarian version of Masterchef, featuring a 30-minute episode on how to make the perfect celery soup.

We are also excited at the prospect of the new edition of Top Gear, made for progressive centre-left countries, which features 60 minutes of silence.

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