The BBC has denied that it cut a sixth Attenborough episode over fear of "rightwing backlash"

“For the BBC to censor one of the nation’s most informed and trusted voices on climate emergencies is an unforgivable dereliction of duty."

David Attenborough Wild Isles
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Telegraph has reported that the BBC chose not to air a sixth episode of Sir David Attenborough's new series, Wild Isles, over fears of "rightwing backlash." 

The episode is believed to have shared stark statistics on the UK's declining wildlife in recent years plus a cross-examination of what's causing it. 

The Guardian shared that the BBC "fear[ed] its themes of the destruction of nature would risk a backlash from Tory politicians and the rightwing press" - hence making the decision not to air the programme on prime time television.

One inside source at the BBC is reported to have said that "lobbying groups that are desperately hanging on to their dinosaurian ways” would “kick off” if the show were seen as "too political." 

Was a sixth episode of Wild Isles with David Attenborough cut by the BBC? 

The BBC "strongly denies" these claims, instead stating that the episode in question was "never intended for broadcast."

Their statement read: "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. We have acquired a separate film for iPlayer from the RSPB and WWF and Silverback Films about people working to preserve and restore the biodiversity of the British Isles.”

The executive producer of Wild Isles, Alastair Fothergill, backed up the statement, adding: “The BBC commissioned a five-part Wild Isles series from us at Silverback Films back in 2017. The RSPB and WWF joined us as co-production partners in 2018."

"It was not until the end of 2021 that the two charities commissioned Silverback Films to make a film for them that celebrates the extraordinary work of people fighting to restore nature in Britain and Ireland. The BBC acquired this film for iPlayer at the start of this year.”

The new series is set in the UK and aims to capture the beauty of nature and wildlife right here in the British Isles.

Narrated by Sir David Attenborough and produced by Silverback Films, the production company behind Our Planet, the series spans five episodes and will air at primetime on BBC One.

The sixth episode in question, according to the BBC, was always intended the be aired solely on their iPlayer service and was partially funded by WWF and RSPB.

That said, many have still shared their frustration with the BBC.

Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “For the BBC to censor of one of the nation’s most informed and trusted voices on the nature and climate emergencies is nothing short of an unforgivable dereliction of its duty to public service broadcasting."

"This government has taken a wrecking ball to our environment – putting over 1,700 pieces of environmental legislation at risk, setting an air pollution target which is a decade too late, and neglecting the scandal of our sewage-filled waterways – which cannot go unexamined and unchallenged by the public."

“BBC bosses must not be cowed by antagonistic, culture war-stoking government ministers, putting populist and petty political games above delivering serious action to protect and restore our natural world. This episode simply must be televised.”

Chris Packham, BBC Springwatch presenter, agreed, adding to The Guardian: “At this time, in our fight to save the world’s biodiversity, it is irresponsible not to put that at the forefront of wildlife broadcasting.”

WWF and RSPB are launching a campaign called Save Our Wild Isles to tie in with the programme's release.

The first episode of Wild Isles with David Attenborough aired on BBC One and BBC iPlayer yesterday evening, Sunday 12th March at 7pm.

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.