Censoring Sir David
By JAMES RANDERSON
Added: Tue, 11 Sep 2007 23:00:00 UTC
An evangelical christian broadcaster has been editing BBC natural history documentaries to remove any reference to evolution.
An evangelical christian TV station in the Netherlands has been censoring Sir David Attenborough. When the Evangelische Omroep (Evangelical Broadcasting) network showed his flagship natural history series The Life of Mammals, it made several alterations to the script to take out references to evolution, the age of the Earth and the evolutionary relationships between humans and apes. It even left out a whole episode on human evolution.
Dutch biologists are livid. Dr Gerdien de Jong at the University of Utrecht has put together a petition asking the BBC - which made the series - to either prevent such tampering or force foreign broadcasters to make clear what changes have been made. So far, 300 Dutch scientists have signed.
The petition reads:
Dutch biologists hold in high regard the many BBC produced nature documentaries, an excellent example being Sir David Attenborough's 'The Life of Mammals'. However, we feel obliged to inform the BBC that the Dutch 'Evangelische Omroep', a religious broadcasting company, manipulates series broadcast under BBC flag. Recently, the 'Evangelische Omroep' broadcasted the 'The Life of Mammals' series in a mutilated form, cutting or rephrasing all passages relevant to evolution, since these contradict their fundamentalist religious creationist views. The Dutch community of biologists urgently requests the BBC either to insist in future contracts on the complete broadcasting of their programmes by Dutch broadcasting companies, or obliging such companies to warn their audience by explicitly announcing manipulations at the beginning of the programmes
There are lists of the changes here and here.
Sir David seems pretty relaxed about it all. He is reported as saying he thought the changes were "fairly innocuous".
And a spokesperson for the BBC told me that foreign broadcasters often make changes and are allowed to do so, "BBC Worldwide does allow up to five minutes per hour to be edited for local scheduling requirements - these edits are made by the local broadcaster."
But snipping bits out on taste and decency grounds or to fit a scheduling slot is somewhat different from changing a programme's scientific context.
What do you think?
...and if you've not heard it before, catch my interview with Sir David on the eve of his lecture at this year's Hay Festival.
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