There’s a controversy brewing around the BBC nature show Frozen Planet. It involves striking footage of newborn polar bear cubs that some viewers thought was filmed in a snowy bear den in the Arctic. It turns out that the footage was shot in a Dutch animal park, instead.
The BBC denies that it sought to mislead anyone. It concedes that the footage of the cubs and their mother was shown after footage of the Arctic, but points out that a “behind the scenes” footage on the show’s website discloses the animal park filming. The BBC and the show’s presenter, Sir David Attenborough, also note that such filming is standard procedure for nature shows and that the footage of the polar bears in their den would be impossible to obtain in the wild.
I’m sure all of that is true, but it is still disillusioning to learn that not all footage screened in “nature” shows is, in fact, filmed in natural surroundings. Perhaps it was naive on my part, but I always thought that part of the wonder of such shows was the uncanny ability of photographers to get real-world footage of the animals, reptiles, and insects in their unadorned, natural surroundings. Now I know that, before I gape in wonderment, I first have to check the website for behind-the-scenes disclaimers and disclosures.