The BBC has been dragged into another impartiality row after it emerged that it won’t broadcast a documentary about the destruction of Britain’s nature amid claims of political pressure.
Saving Our Wild Isles, a documentary commissioned from the RSPB and World Wildlife Fund and featuring Sir David Attenborough, will be placed on iPlayer but will not be shown on any BBC channels.
The programme is linked to a major campaign by the RSPB, WWF and National Trust which is set to launch next week.
It documents the dramatic decline in wildlife and natural habitats across Britain, including wetlands, wildflower meadows and woodlands.
Insiders at the BBC claimed that the programme was not being broadcast because of fears at the corporation that it would lead to political attack from the Conservative Party and farming and hunting lobbies, the Guardian reported.
Saving Our Wild Isles is being released at the same time as the BBC’s landmark natural history series Wild Isles, the first presented by Sir David to be focused solely on the UK.
That 5-part programme will be broadcast on BBC One in a primetime slot. It was co-produced by the RSPB and WWF, who also helped to fund it.
The decision to accept money from the charities led to “much internal agonising” at the corporation, the Radio Times reported last week.
The BBC is no longer capable of independently funding major wildlife programmes and usually relies on agreements with foreign broadcasters.
Both the RSPB and WWF have come under attack from Conservative MPs after they and multiple other wildlife organisations launched a major campaign against former prime minister Liz Truss’s efforts to dismantle environmental protections.
They have also been highly critical of the Retained EU Law Bill, which threatens to shred dozens of European laws that protect the environment.
A BBC source told the Guardian that it was “disingenuous” to keep the two documentaries separate.
The RSPB, BBC and WWF all insisted to i that the programmes were entirely separate and had never been intended to be seen as linked projects.
The corporation is already involved in a major row over comments made by Gary Lineker, who presents football shows for the BBC, about the Government’s policy on refugees. It’s director general, Tim Davie, has pledged to take a tougher stance on impartiality.
A BBC spokesperson said: “Wild Isles consists of five episodes: Our Precious Isles, Woodland, Grassland, Freshwater and Ocean. 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.”
Deadline reporter Jake Kanter also tweeted the BBC had released a new statement calling the Guardian’s report “wholly inaccurate” and that the film had been acquired for iPlayer.