The massive world-famous ecosystem that is the British Broadcasting Corporation was where I worked for 30 years – in the equally famous Natural History Unit, on Life on Earth, The Living Planet and much else. All that time the system remained pretty much the same. Channel controllers, or similar, at the very top of the food chain commissioned more and more “landmark” (=epic) series, with much time, money and particularly David Attenborough (that’s A for alpha). The series were praised particularly for their photography though others on satellite channels had equally dramatic pictures and sometimes better stories, otherwise they are mainly “fang TV” (as seen often in Planet Earth II). Although recently I have seen one-hour films on those channels with not a single human being in sight – apparently untouched wilderness in some of the most heavily human-populated places on the planet, for example – Indonesia. Is that lying?
Planet Earth II could be accused of that too apart from some “token” references to our changing planet. But as we watch the last snow leopards on the planet in the frigid Himalayas from the comfort of the Sunday night at home, perhaps those priceless animals are already extinct. I am not suggesting every wildlife programme has to have the “gloom and doom” that those channel controllers dread, with a fear of a serious loss of ratings. Against the spectrum of wildlife broadcasting, including radio, news and current affairs (ivory, overfishing, climate change), there is certainly room for smash-hits like Planet Earth II. Good for ratings, good for the BBC – value for the licence-payer. But is it yet another example of humans, in this case the BBC system, letting the real world slip by? If so, in the future, questions will be asked of the people behind this deception.
You can see the problem for the broadcasters in Planet Earth – not just the death of baby turtles confused by the lights at the beach in Barbados, but the fact that the viewers don’t like the truth, that’s bad for ratings, and it happens to be our fault.
It’s naďve to think wildlife can benefit much within our cities. The majority are not allowed in, cannot cope anyway. It’s only a few (photogenic?) species that can survive and their days may be numbered – except on the television screen. They need our help.
And perhaps, instead of the traditional “Diaries” last ten minutes, we should see something about the conservation of those plants, animals and places we have been enjoying – albeit vicariously? Rather than self-congratulatory sequences of the adventures of the undoubtedly talented teams.
John Vidal, in a full page article in the Guardian of 19th December 2016. “We are amazed by images of wildlife seen in ever more beautifully filmed natural history documentaries. They raise awareness, entertain, inform and amuse. We weep when we hear there are fewer birds in the sky, or that thousands of species are critically endangered. But there are some metaphorical megafauna that the BBC and we in the media really do not want everyone to see…we avert our eyes and pretend they are not there… We hope they will go away, but they appear to be breeding (a lot). But it is now clear that they are doing so much damage that, unless confronted, there is little chance that the rest of the animals, including us, will survive very long…
…either we can wring our hands and carry on watching ever more gorgeous images of wildlife, and see nature carry on declining… Or we can intervene.”
"How to turn losers into winners" by Richard Brock
Sir David Attenborough: “Sounds like a very good idea” 2015
The intention of this 60+ film series is to draw attention to the realistic, positive side of wildlife conservation, as well as showing the problems that lie ahead and what might be done to avoid them. The series is not in the same league as major “landmark” productions with big budgets, big teams and, sometimes, big television audiences – sometimes global, sometimes not. Rather, Winners and Losers is an attempt to reach as many people around the world with fairly short films which include a wide variety of people, places, wildlife and issues, that, hopefully, will connect with those who see them. This could be via any form of media, especially social media, which is growing rapidly everywhere. A special team will ensure that maximum reach is achieved. The series has been made with my own funding (based mainly on my BBC pension) and produced with a small team of professionals filming, editing, design, management and distribution. It is possible to show, therefore, that a relatively modest effort can result in a potentially very useful product, if it is planned, made and distributed well. For me, that is my contribution to our unique “living planet” a previous BBC Natural History Unit series on which I had the pleasure of working – as well as on Life on Earth. Since that time, 25 years ago, much has changed in the natural world mainly because of us. Winners and Losers shows some of those changes – both bad news and good news, from recent archive to now. It’s an attempt to encourage the audience, especially young people globally, to care about the planet and its remarkable wildlife. I really hope the series will make a difference. No income is expected – you could call it my legacy I suppose!
To achieve maximum reach and appeal we have made a series of versions of all of the 60+ films. There is a 3-minute series promo and an 18-minute series promo. Each separate film has a 5-minute promo and there is also a “main film” each of about 20-30 minutes, so it is possible to try out each film in several lengths and stages. It is also possible to combine different subjects and lengths – a kind of “mix and match”. To name a few – Kenyan eagles, insect migration, whales and at Sea World, bluefin tuna, elephants, ecotourism, Shell in the Arctic, sea turtles, the River Thames, wolves, squirrels, chimps, rhinos, Galapagos, McDonald’s, hippos, a Bond girl in Sardinia, “Is Dubai Doomed?” Quite a choice, you could say, and all brought right up to date in 2016 from over the last 10-15 years. And the future? I hope the series will help and, indeed, turn losers into winners.
Richard's films will be released online in the coming months, in the run up to the Wildscreen Festival and beyond... Keep up-to-date by visiting the film series webpage here: brockinitiative.org/Winners-and-Losers.htm
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