BBC 'fesses up over polar bears

2011-12-12 16:42

London - The BBC's popular Frozen Planet series promises to show viewers Arctic animals in their snowy, frozen habitats, but the broadcaster conceded on Monday that recent scenes of a polar bear with her cubs were actually shot in a European zoo, not the wild, as had been implied in the programme.

The broadcaster insisted that it had not misled audiences or tricked them into thinking that the scenes showing a female polar bear tenderly nursing her newborn cubs in an icy den in the dead of winter were filmed in the wild.

Its response came after The Daily Mirror accused it of "faking" the footage. The paper quoted lawmaker John Whittingdale, who heads the House of Commons culture committee, as saying the BBC should have been clearer about the origin of the shots.

Controlled conditions

The BBC statement said most of the footage for the Frozen Planet series was filmed in the wild but that some sequences, including those of the polar bear giving birth, had to be filmed in controlled conditions.

It said: "We felt that the birthing process was a pivotal part of the story, which had to be told. It would be quite impossible for our cameras to film inside a den in the wild without disturbing the female. For this reason the polar bear den sequence was filmed in controlled conditions."

The BBC said presenter David Attenborough's narration was carefully worded so that it did not mislead audiences.

In the episode, broadcast on November 23 , the camera follows a female polar bear in the Arctic as Attenborough, long known for his nature programmes, comments: "She starts to dig a shallow nest... once the snow here is deep enough, she'll dig down to make a den. She'll then lie waiting for her cubs to be born as winter sets in."

He then says: "On these side slopes beneath the snow, new lives are beginning."

Footage of the newborn cubs filmed at the animal park is then screened, but Attenborough does not say in the programme that the mother and cubs were in fact in a manmade den in an animal park.

The BBC said it had made it clear the footage was from a zoo in an interview with producer Kathryn Jeffs that was posted on the broadcaster's website a few weeks before the programme aired.

In the video, Jeffs says there was no way to film a polar bear giving birth in the wild.


  • seymore.butt - 2011-12-12 17:13

    BBC no longer has the credibility of the old days. They have become nothing but a commercial unit trying to fill in 24 hrs in a day and a propaganda machine despite their holier than thou attitude.

      taurais - 2011-12-12 17:29

      Yaa no credibility at all. First the whole Top Gear saga where they fessed up to not being factual now this?? Pity when so many people take these shows at face value to be fact. Better get back to getting your facts from books people

      Nick - 2011-12-12 23:13

      shut up you idiot

  • Hugh - 2011-12-12 17:20

    If one buys the programme one will see the special scenes and items that explains the how the shots were done. In every programme, I have the compelete set it that that section that showed be viewed first to give a clear idea of what is faked for ease of explaination. did you ever wonder how they show a field of flowers blooming without cloud and wheather chanes being shown. It has to be faked otherwise it would not be watchable.

  • scottdavies123 - 2011-12-12 18:03

    Storm in a teacup perhaps? @Taurais, the difference here is that with Top Gear saying eg that an electric car ran out of batteries when that was patently untrue is that it is 180° from the truth. However, in this instance, you were seeing genuine footage of a polar bear female and her cubs, albeit not in the artic circle. It doesn't REALLY make any difference. So definitely the poms have too little to worry about if this gets raised as an issue in parliament.

      Nick - 2011-12-12 23:14


  • Aya - 2011-12-12 18:48

    I have never seen such small polar bears before. And The Frozen Planet has shown them! It doesn't matter much WHERE they were filmed, especially taking into account that filming in the wild could distract the female. BBC achieved their goal - made a very interesting and informative scene. And I say thank you to them!

  • Fred - 2011-12-12 20:10

    This is another brilliant BBC series. I ever ceased to be amazed at the quality of the photography and how they get some of the shots. Makes no difference that a scene, impossible to film in the wild, was filmed in a Zoo. It fits the narrative and is not in the least misleading.

  • Nick - 2011-12-12 20:34

    I have followed David and his team since he started out and have every dvd that has been released As for the polar bear scene if it's a one off then no problem but if the team were to do that again then it could cause the public to have doubt in their mind as to what was real or not and then you would kill the program stone dead I have always maintained that the David and his team to be of the highest standard of bbc broadcasting so there is a lot at stake My advice is to only film what you see on location in future so that this type of broadcasting is never compromised in the future

  • ssl007 - 2011-12-12 20:38

    This sounds like a con - the BBC were exposed and then tried to squirm out of it. I believe that the BBC and other wildlife film-makers often do this type of con - film some scenes in the wild and then - without telling the viewer - film the money shots in a zoo. This is dishonest!

      Nick - 2011-12-12 23:16

      its not a con you idiot...they're always very upfront in explaining how they achieve these amazing shots

  • Paul - 2011-12-12 21:44

    BBC is simply a long way ahead of the junk we are being fed by the likes of National Geographics. They did what they had to to bring a point across. Like with comedy, the Brits are simply way ahead and thank heavens they are not fixated with reptiles like NG!

      Nick - 2011-12-12 23:20

      well said!

      Steph - 2011-12-13 06:26

      what fixation are you talking about ? NG the magazine has covered just about every animal known since the magazines inception - they also cover politics , human movement , anthropology and history ?? I have a massive collection of them dating back several years - and you puzzle me with your statement that they are 'fixated' . The TV series , and NG specials are likewise so varied as to cover anything from a whole movie about Air Force One , all the way across the spectrum to following a family of lions around in a South African Game park .... not sure where a fixation on reptiles fits into that ?

  • margaret.mead1 - 2011-12-13 09:33

    I don't care at all that the birthing footage was done in a zoo. It would have been impossible in the wild anyway. But I'm sure it's going to be a GREAT and awesome movie. Can't wait to see it. BBC and David Attenborough are a magic mix.

  • pages:
  • 1