BBC denies misleading viewers over Frozen Planet

Sequence shot in a zoo would have been "impossible" to film in the wild, says the broadcaster

The BBC has denied deliberately misleading viewers over a sequence in David Attenborough’s nature series Frozen Planet of a polar bear nurturing her newborn cubs.


The footage, which has drawn criticism from the Daily Mirror, was shot in a re-created den in a German zoo and edited into a sequence featuring polar bears in the Arctic.

“This particular sequence would be impossible to film in the wild,” said a BBC spokeswoman.

“The commentary accompanying the sequence is carefully worded so it doesn’t mislead the audience and the way the footage was captured is clearly explained on the programme website.”

Attenborough also explained the sequence on ITV1’s This Morning, saying: “If you had tried to put a camera in the wild in a polar bear den, [the mother] would either have killed the cub or she would have killed the cameraman, one or the other.”

He told viewers that referencing the zoo as part of the show’s commentary would have ruined the atmosphere of the sequence and added: “It’s not falsehood and we don’t keep it secret either.”

The show’s producer, Kathryn Jeffs, said that female polar bears give birth at the peak of winter and that “the problem for us is that they do it underneath the snow in these dens of ice.”

“There is absolutely no way that we can get our cameras down there, it would just be completely impractical.

“Even if we could, we would not want to disturb the polar bears by getting that close.

“This was not part of the story that we could leave out of Frozen Planet.”

John Whittingdale MP, chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, opined that “broadcasters should not seek to give viewers a false impression.

“If this was not filmed in the wild it would have been much better to have made that clear in the commentary.

“It’s questionable how many people would visit the website and find the video clip which explained the circumstances of the filming.”


More than eight million people watched the episode when it was transmitted on 23 November.