BBC under fire over Attenborough episode, sports presenter Lineker’s Twitter row

London, Mar 11 (PTI) The BBC on Saturday is dealing with a deepening row as it emerged that it decided not to broadcast an episode narrated by world-famous conservationist Sir David Attenborough for a new wildlife series over fears of a right-wing backlash, amid an ongoing controversy over affecting its sports programming involving football legend Gary Lineker.

Several of the broadcaster’s regular sports presenters have stepped back in solidarity with former England captain and TV pundit Lineker after he was suspended over a controversial tweet related to the government’s migration policy.

It has now been forced to strongly deny a report in ‘The Guardian’ newspaper that said a sixth episode of the Attenborough-narrated ‘Wild Isles’ series will not be broadcast over political concerns.

While the newspaper claims that senior sources at the BBC have said that the decision not to show the sixth episode was made to fend off potential criticism from the political right, the BBC claims it was never intended for broadcast in the first place.

“This is totally inaccurate, there is no ‘sixth episode’. ‘Wild Isles’ is – and always was – a five-part series and does not shy away from environmental content,” the BBC statement said.

“We have acquired a separate film for iPlayer [online service] from the RSPB [Royal Society for the Protection of Birds] and WWF [World Wide Fund for Nature] and Silverback Films about people working to preserve and restore the biodiversity of the British Isles,” it said.

The documentary series was part-funded by nature charities the WWF and RSPB and all the episodes are narrated by 96-year-old Attenborough.

The newspaper claims some insiders at the BBC fear the corporation has bowed to pressure from lobbying groups with “dinosaurian ways”.

The so-called sixth episode is understood to be a stark look at the losses of nature in the UK and what has caused the decline. It is also understood to include some examples of rewilding, a concept that has been controversial in some right-wing circles.

Laura Howard, who produced the programme and used to work at the BBC’s Natural History Unit, told the ‘Guardian’: “I think the facts speak for themselves. You know, we’ve worked really closely with the RSPB in particular who are able to fact-check 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.” The controversy comes as the corporation apologised for its “limited sports programming” this weekend and said it is “working hard to resolve the situation” after several of its regular presenters went off air.

In a post on Tuesday on his Twitter account which has 8.7 million followers, 62-year-old Lineker — one of England’s greatest soccer players and now among the UK’s most influential media figures — compared lawmakers’ language about migrants to that used in Nazi Germany.

The BBC, which operates through a taxpayer-funded licence fee, considers Lineker posting such views on social media as a breach of its impartiality guidelines.

The network said it held discussions with Lineker over his involvement in ‘Match of the Day’, which is broadcast on Saturday nights and shows highlights of English Premier League games that day.

“The BBC has decided that he will step back from presenting ‘Match of the Day’, until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media,” the broadcaster said.

“We have never said that Gary should be an opinion-free zone, or that he can’t have a view on issues that matter to him, but we have said that he should keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies,” it added.

Source: PTI News


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