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MSP weighs-in to backlash against conservation charities which backed BBC series

This news post is 11 months old

Fears the BBC are bowing to pressure from lobbying

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson has weighed into a debate about the BBC censoring charities.

It comes as the BBC ditched a companion episode of David Attenborough’s Wild Isles series for fear of prompting a "right wing backlash" against its content.

The documentary series was part-funded by nature charities the WWF and RSPB, but the final episode will not be broadcast along with the others and will instead be available only on the BBC’s iPlayer service.

The decision has angered the programme-makers and some insiders at the BBC, who fear the corporation has bowed to pressure from lobbying groups with “dinosaurian ways”.

The BBC strongly denied this was the case and insisted the episode in question was never intended for broadcast.

Attenborough’s highly anticipated new series looks at the beauty of nature in the British Isles.

Narrated by Attenborough, it is expected to be a hit, with five episodes scheduled to go out in primetime slots on BBC One.

A sixth episode has also been filmed, which is understood to be a stark look at the losses of nature in the UK and what has caused the declines.

It is also understood to include some examples of rewilding, a concept that has been controversial in some rightwing circles.

Gibson’s motion states: “That the Parliament notes with concern reports that the BBC has chosen not to air a companion episode of David Attenborough’s Wild Isles series on television for fear of prompting a "right wing backlash" against its content, which, it believes, amounts to censorship; understands that the episode, entitled Saving Our Wild Isles, which explores nature loss and the risks posed to UK wildlife through climate change and the failure to protect ecosystems and natural habitats, will only be shown on BBC iPlayer; is alarmed at reported claims by sources within the BBC that the episode would only be shown online due to the uncomfortable and inconvenient nature of its content and the response this would provoke from conservative newspapers, news channels and industry lobbying groups.”

The  Cunninghame North's motion goes on to acknowledge the involvement of WWF UK and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the production of the series and considers this to be part of a wider attack on charities and voluntary organisations with a campaigning mission.

Alastair Fothergill, the director of Silverback Films and the executive producer of Wild Isles, added: “The BBC commissioned a five-part Wild Isles series from us at Silverback Films back in 2017. The RSPB and WWF joined us as co-production partners in 2018.

“It was not until the end of 2021 that the two charities commissioned Silverback Films to make a film for them that celebrates the extraordinary work of people fighting to restore nature in Britain and Ireland. The BBC acquired this film for iPlayer at the start of this year.”

The motion was supported by Karen Adam, Colin Beattie, Stephanie Callaghan, Graeme Dey, Emma Harper, Bill Kidd, Ruth Maguire, John Mason, Stuart McMillan, Jenni Minto, Audrey Nicoll, Emma Roddick, Michelle Thomson and Mercedes Villalba