BBC refuses to broadcast David Attenborough episode over threat of “rightwing backlash”

The episode of 'Wild Isles' will only be available to watch on iPlayer

It’s been reported that an episode of David Attenborough’s upcoming British wildlife series will not be broadcast by the BBC over fears of “rightwing backlash”.

Wild Isles, a new documentary series exploring the wildlife of the British Isles and narrated by Attenborough, is set to premiere this weekend (March 12). Five episodes will be broadcast on BBC One in a primetime slot but a sixth will only be available to watch via the BBC iPlayer.

According to the Guardian, the sixth episode will feature a stark look at the losses of nature in the UK and what has caused the declines. It will also include some examples of rewilding, a concept that has been controversial in some rightwing circles.


Senior sources at the BBC told the Guardian that “the decision was made to fend off potential critique from the political right.” Earlier this week, the BBC was attacked for  taking funding from “two charities (the WWF and RSPB) previously criticised for their political lobbying” to create the Attenborough series.

One senior source at the BBC said “lobbying groups that are desperately hanging on to their dinosaurian ways [would] kick off” if the show had too political a message.

However producer Laura Howard said: “I think the facts speak for themselves. We’ve worked really closely with the RSPB who are able to factcheck all of our scripts and provide us with detailed scientific data and information about the loss of wildlife in this country. And it is undeniable, we are incredibly nature-depleted. And I don’t think that that is political, I think it’s just facts.”

“For the BBC to censor [Attenborough], one of the nation’s most informed and trusted voices on the nature and climate emergencies is nothing short of an unforgivable dereliction of its duty to public service broadcasting,” said Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP for Brighton Pavilion.


“BBC bosses must not be cowed by antagonistic, culture war-stoking government ministers, putting populist and petty political games above delivering serious action to protect and restore our natural world. This episode simply must be televised.”

However a BBC spokesperson has denied the claims. “David Attenborough’s Wild Isles consists of five episodes: Our Precious Isles, Woodland, Grassland, Freshwater and Ocean,” they said. “Saving Our Wild Isles is a separate film inspired by the series that was commissioned by the RSPB and WWF. We’ve acquired it for iPlayer.”

A tweet from the BBC Press Office added: “This is totally inaccurate, there is no ‘6th episode’. Wild Isles is – and always was – a 5 part series. We acquired a separate film for iPlayer from the RSPB, WWF and Silverback Films about people working to preserve and restore the biodiversity of the British Isles.”

It’s been confirmed that Attenborough will narrate all six episodes though.

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