Staff at the BBC’s Natural History Unit is being forced to undergo tough new “anti-fakery” training or be banned from production after it was found that two of their shows seriously breached the BBC’s editorial guidelines.
The broadcaster’s governing body yesterday ruled that Patagonia: Earth’s Secret Paradise, a series shown on BBC Two last year, was misleading to viewers as they used composite footage of two different volcanic eruptions to dramatize the footage, claiming they were a single event.
— Madhulika Sikka (@madhulikasikka) February 18, 2016
According to Mirror Online, the second breach was from another natural history show aired in 2011. In Human Planet: Deserts – Life in the Furnace, Natural History Unit producers used scenes showing Mongolian camel herdsmen hunting a wolf. In the footage, the wolf reportedly attacked a camel, but it turned out the animal was semi-domesticated and was released from its leash moments before the scene was filmed.
The BBC Trust described both incidents as having constituted a “serious breach” of the BBC’s accuracy rules, but it seems these are only the latest in a series of “fakery” incidents to hit the Natural History Unit, as this kind of thing has happened before.
It turns out that back in 2011, scenes in Frozen Planet, hosted by Sir David Attenborough, showing the birth of polar bear cubs were actually filmed in a Dutch wildlife center, and not in the wild.
BBC starting mandatoty “anti-fakery” training for nature documentaries. Hope it spreads to political programmes soon https://t.co/wp1uuyDGXK
— Tom Phillips (@TomSprints) February 19, 2016
After investigations were run of the latest transgressions, Tuppence Stone, producer of both shows, was found to have not undergone the BBC’s “gold standard” training program, introduced back in 2013 after previous fakery scandals.
According to the trustees, the producer of the two series was aware of specialized training that had been developed for the Natural History Unit staff and that it was mandatory. However, she had not completed the course as she had either been overseas filming when the course ran or when she had been booked onto a course, it had been canceled.
Since the discovery of the two faked episodes, the BBC has completed an audit of all Stone’s shows to ensure they didn’t contain any other examples of fakery. However, it has been stated that no filmmaker will be allowed to take part of any Natural History productions until they have completed the “safeguarding trust” or “anti-fakery” course.
In a report, the committee states, “As a result of this case, BBC management made a commitment that senior staff working on future projects would have to complete the training before they were allowed to join their production teams.”
Speaking of the investigation into other Natural History shows, the committee said, “Trustees sought additional reassurance, which was provided, that the BBC would ensure all staff currently working on output had also completed the specialist training course.”
According to a report in the Telegraph, BBC‘s management has agreed that the “anti-fakery” course will be reviewed and updated and senior editorial staff will not be allowed to start work on any productions unless they had completed the course. Reportedly, prior to the start-up meeting for each production a formal check will be made to ensure staff have received the relevant training.
The committee did add that the trustees consider the latest infractions to be the regrettable result of “an individual error of editorial judgment.” Despite this, they state that members of the BBC’s Natural History Unit staff occupy a “unique position in terms of the public’s engagement with the natural world, their understanding of it and their interest in it.”