Little White Lies: Frozen Planet Fakery and the Fall of the BBC

By: Alice Bonasio

It is always sad when your heroes let you down, and this week one the people I most admire did just that: Sir David Attenborough.

When it emerged earlier in the week that certain scenes in the BBC’s latest wildlife documentary series Frozen Planet had been filmed in a zoo, I was truly shocked.

Not because they had used the footage of newly born Polar Bear cubs – which by any standards was amazing – but because they intercut it with scenes showing wild polar bears, with a narration that deliberately misled the viewer.

We grow all too used to being misled these days, but when the voice doing the misleading is that of one of the most respected and trusted figures in broadcasting history, even a jaded and hardened viewer can be taken aback, and I was.

Sir David came out in defence of the BBC’s treachery by saying that it would have been impossible to film the scenes in the wild, and that telling the viewer would have ruined the atmosphere.

They were, he claims, telling a story, painting a picture, and so that justified lying to the audience.

For years I have seen the once cherished standards of the BBC decline, and I always said to anybody who would listen that the only programmes that still held on to those values were those made by David Attenborough, who was not only a wonderful presenter, but had a genuine respect for his subject matter.

To think that I was wrong causes me great sadness.

I don’t think it is right to lie in order to entertain. Certainly not when you call what you are making a documentary.

And I think that if the audience was given just a little bit more credit, they might surprise those who think that telling them the truth would “ruin things for them.”

And while I’m certainly going to keep my complete collection of every program that Sir David has ever made, and the book that he so kindly and patiently signed for me a few months ago, it is a sad and cold day that sees the last bastion of goodness in the BBC become another casualty of so-called entertainment.


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Alice Bonasio is a Brazilian/American/Italian writer specializing in Digital Cultures, fashion, and all things Brazilian. She has been published in Gamestm, Edge, The Escapist and 360. She has just finished an MA in Creative and Media Enterprises at the University of Warwick and is PR Manager for the world’s largest Meeting Network, Badoo. Visit her website, contact her on LinkedIN and follow her on Twitter.

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