Popular natural history presenter Martin Hughes-Games has pulled out of a press conference scheduled for today (Tuesday) amid continuing confusion about his future with the BBC.
Hughes-Games was to have shared a platform with Autumnwatch co-host Chris Packham to talk about next month’s series of the wildlife magazine programme.
But after claiming at the weekend that the BBC had axed him, he is now said by the Corporation to be “unavailable” for this afternoon’s event in London.
Hughes-Games, who turned 60 this year, announced to his 40,000 Twitter followers on Saturday that he was being dropped from Springwatch, one of the trio of “Watch” programmes he presents with Packham and Michaela Strachan.
He said: “The BBC commissioner Tom McDonald has decided my services no longer required on Springwatch etc. Sad, but it’s been brilliant. Thank you.”
The BBC issued an immediate denial to RadioTimes.com, saying Hughes-Games’ role on the programmes was ‘evolving’ rather than becoming extinct.
“It is simply not true that Martin’s services are no longer required on the ‘Watches’. As well as being contracted for Autumnwatch we have begun conversations with Martin about an evolution of his role for Winterwatch and beyond. As far as the BBC is concerned Martin continues to be a valued member of the ‘Watches’ team.”
Attempts to contact Hughes-Games have been unsuccessful, but those familiar with the language employed by the BBC assume “evolution” means he will be axed from main presenting duties after next month’s Autumnwatch, despite publicly appearing upbeat about the forthcoming series.
“It sounds like they want either a new presenter or just Chris and Michaela,” said one insider. “Martin would then, presumably, be given a lesser role. I can see why he’d be unhappy with that.”
Meanwhile an online petition has been started to help keep Hughes-Games in his job. Launched on Saturday, it has already collected over 1,000 names. Some have linked the BBC’s decision on Hughes-Games to his refusal to attend a Countryfile show in August because of the presence of a pro-hunt group at the event.
One said: “Wonder why he was sacked?? Could it be his anti-hunting views which, btw are shared by the huge majority of viewers?”
Another responded conspiratorially: “Smacks of outside forces trying to pressure the BBC over Chris Packham, so they’ve axed a close friend in the hope Packham resigns.”
But Lynne Switzer from Southampton summed up the general mood when she said: “Have they not learned anything about messing with a successful line up? Does Top Gear not come to mind? We love Martin please leave him where he is, the show won’t be the same and you will lose viewers. I will be one.”