US will not air climate change episode of Frozen Planet

BBC defends decision to give world TV channels the option of dropping the final episode of David Att

An episode of David Attenborough's Frozen Planet series that looks at climate change will not be aired in the US, where many are sceptical about global warming.

Seven episodes of the multi-million-pound nature documentary series will be aired in Britain. However, the series has been sold to 30 world TV networks as a package of only six episodes. These networks then have the option of buying the seventh "companion" episode -- which explores the effect man is having on the natural world -- as well as behind the scenes footage.

The six-episode series has been sold to 30 broadcasters, ten of which have declined to use the climate change episode, "On Thin Ice", including the US.

In America, the series is being aired by the Discovery channel, which insists that the final episode has been dropped because of a "scheduling issue".

Regardless of their reasoning, environmental campaigners have criticised the BBC's decision to market the episode separately as "unhelpful". And it has caused controversy across the board. The Telegraph's headline ("BBC drops Frozen Planet's climate change episode to sell show better abroad") sums up how the news has been received.

However, the BBC have defended the decision, claiming that it is more to do with a difference in style in this episode than its content. Caroline Torrance, BBC Worldwide's Director of Programme Investment, wrote in a blog that the first six episodes "have a clear story arc charting a year in our polar regions", adding:

Although it is filmed by the same team and to the same production standard, this programme is necessarily different in style.

Having a presenter in vision requires many broadcasters to have the programme dubbed, ultimately giving some audiences a very different experience.

Audiences are currently enjoying incredible footage of the natural world; it would be a shame for them to leave without a sense of the danger it faces.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Brexit is teaching the UK that it needs immigrants

Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past.

Why did the UK vote to leave the EU? For conservatives, Brexit was about regaining parliamentary sovereignty. For socialists it was about escaping the single market. For still more it was a chance to punish David Cameron and George Osborne. But supreme among the causes was the desire to reduce immigration.

For years, as the government repeatedly missed its target to limit net migration to "tens of thousands", the EU provided a convenient scapegoat. The free movement of people allegedly made this ambition unachievable (even as non-European migration oustripped that from the continent). When Cameron, the author of the target, was later forced to argue that the price of leaving the EU was nevertheless too great, voters were unsurprisingly unconvinced.

But though the Leave campaign vowed to gain "control" of immigration, it was careful never to set a formal target. As many of its senior figures knew, reducing net migration to "tens of thousands" a year would come at an economic price (immigrants make a net fiscal contribution of £7bn a year). An OBR study found that with zero net migration, public sector debt would rise to 145 per cent of GDP by 2062-63, while with high net migration it would fall to 73 per cent. For the UK, with its poor productivity and sub-par infrastructure, immigration has long been an economic boon. 

When Theresa May became Prime Minister, some cabinet members hoped that she would abolish the net migration target in a "Nixon goes to China" moment. But rather than retreating, the former Home Secretary doubled down. She regards the target as essential on both political and policy grounds (and has rejected pleas to exempt foreign students). But though the same goal endures, Brexit is forcing ministers to reveal a rarely spoken truth: Britain needs immigrants.

Those who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce the number of newcomers have been forced to qualify their remarks. On last night's Question Time, Brexit secretary David Davis conceded that immigration woud not invariably fall following Brexit. "I cannot imagine that the policy will be anything other than that which is in the national interest, which means that from time to time we’ll need more, from time to time we’ll need less migrants."

Though Davis insisted that the government would eventually meet its "tens of thousands" target (while sounding rather unconvinced), he added: "The simple truth is that we have to manage this problem. You’ve got industry dependent on migrants. You’ve got social welfare, the national health service. You have to make sure they continue to work."

As my colleague Julia Rampen has charted, Davis's colleagues have inserted similar caveats. Andrea Leadsom, the Environment Secretary, who warned during the referendum that EU immigration could “overwhelm” Britain, has told farmers that she recognises “how important seasonal labour from the EU is to the everyday running of your businesses”. Others, such as the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, and the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, have issued similar guarantees to employers. Brexit is fuelling immigration nimbyism: “Fewer migrants, please, but not in my sector.”

The UK’s vote to leave the EU – and May’s decision to pursue a "hard Brexit" – has deprived the government of a convenient alibi for high immigration. Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past. Brexit may have been caused by the supposed costs of immigration but it is becoming an education in its benefits.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.