Entertainment & Arts

BBC Trust: Nature documentaries broke accuracy rules

Thunderstorm of Cordon Caulle eruption Image copyright Francisco Negroni
Image caption Footage of the thunderstorm shown was actually taken from the eruption of a different volcano

Two BBC nature documentaries have been criticised for serious editorial breaches by the BBC Trust.

Patagonia: Earth's Secret Paradise, which was broadcast in September 2015, showed what appeared to be a volcano erupting.

But it emerged later that the clip included footage from a storm surrounding a different volcano eruption in 2011.

The BBC Trust described the sequence as "potentially misleading".

"The Committee bore in mind the very high regard in which output from the BBC's Natural History Unit is held. They considered this was a serious breach of the editorial guidelines for accuracy," a summary of their findings read.

After the BBC Two programme was aired, the show's producer Tuppence Stone said in a blog post that volcanic eruptions could be difficult to capture on film and so "it requires special techniques to reveal and portray their true extraordinary nature".

"The lightning shots were taken by an award-winning Chilean photographer, of a nearby Patagonian volcano, Cordon Caulle four years earlier during its eruption, using long exposure techniques," she wrote.

"The Cordon Caulle volcano eruption was a very similar event to the Calbuco volcano this year."

It was only when the blog was circulated that the executive producer of the programme and the BBC's head of knowledge commissioning became aware that footage used in the programme was comprised of different events.

The Trust noted in its findings that Ms Stone had not undertaken a training course which was compulsory for all staff working in the BBC Natural History Unit.

BBC management have since made a commitment that senior staff working on future projects will have to complete the training before being allowed to join the corporation's production teams.

'Significant concerns'

A second programme, Human Planet: Deserts - Life In The Furnace, which was also produced by Ms Stone, was also examined in the report.

The episode - originally broadcast in 2011 - included the story of how an infant camel had been killed by wolves.

But producers, having been unable to film a wild wolf for the programme, used a semi-domesticated wolf which had been let off a lead just before filming.

Herdsmen were seen apparently firing at it in the footage.

The BBC Trust noted that it was a historic episode of the programme - which had been made and broadcast before more stringent editorial processes had been introduced.

But they agreed that the output breached the editorial guidelines and that, had it been a current production, it would have raised "significant concerns" about accuracy and misleading audiences.

The programme, despite being aired five years ago, had come to the attention of the BBC Trust after newspaper coverage in October, printed as a result of the controversy surrounding the Patagonia programme.

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