Saturday 29 October 2016

Diverse matters re 'Autumnwatch'

The newly-famous (and, apparently, now very popular) ladybird spider

I very much enjoyed this week's Autumnwatch.

It had everything from sika deer to ladybird spiders, from edible dormice to golden eagles, from sand hoppers to spoonbills, from fungi to (that fun guy) Martin Hughes-Games.

Plus it had a daily mouse maze competition which, frankly, put the likes of Strictly Come Dancing and the Great British Bake (Off to Channel Four) to shame in terms of sheer excitement. 

I learned a lot too. I didn't know that our poor old red squirrels now have leprosy to contend with (on top of everything else). Or that there may be now around a million non-native edible dormice leaping around the woods of southern England, devouring everything in sight - including vast swathes of bird's eggs and young birds. Or that smooth snakes are the top UK snake - at least in terms of frequently devouring other snakes and, thus, adding to the woes of our adders (which are being subtracted at a worrying rate). 

On the more typically blog-related stuff, however...

You may recall the strange tale of Martin Hughes-Games tweeting that he was getting the push from Springwatch because the presenters were considered too white and middle-aged and that the BBC wanted more "diversity". 

You may also recall that the BBC strenuously denied that, saying that Martin's career move (being dropped as a main presenter) had nothing to do with 'diversity'. 

Viewers of Autumnwatch this week, however, were introduced on a daily basis to Gillian Burke ("biologist, filmmaker, narrator, voice-over artist"), and will have noticed that Gillian is black and that she has something of a 'non-British' accent.

Gillian Burke

Michaela Strachan then let slip to The Sun that Gillian is going to be Martin's replacement and the BBC had to (abruptly) confirm that  Gillian would appear on both Autumnwatch and Springwatch. 

The BBC continues to deny, however, that this was to make the show more "diverse", despite the new -Watch regular being from an ethnic minority. 

Please excuse me for not believing the BBC here. 

Still, she seems like a worthy addition to the programme (and she's far less of a 'character' than Martin). I've got no complaints whatsoever about her (so far). I enjoyed her contributions. In the interests of ITBB impartiality though, I'd note that some on Twitter moaned that she mispronounced 'Brownsea Island' (the nature reserve near Poole, close to where Autumnwatch was being broadcast from), which, maybe, isn't quite what might be expected from a 'narrator and voice-over artist'.

Anyhow, on the other hot Springwatch/Autumnwatch controversy - Chris Packham's off-air campaigning against grouse hunters over hen harriers - I ended a post last Monday by writing:
As I'll be watching Autumnwatch (one of my favourite BBC programmes), I'll let you know if Chris Packham uses it to proselytise on behalf of his favourite cause.  
If he does, then it definitely won't be a grey area in any way, shape or form...
Well, on Wednesday's edition there was a piece on hen harriers. It featured two enthusiasts for hen harrier conservation and alluded, briefly, to the issue of hen harriers being killed on grouse moors. 

So, yes, Autumnwatch was going out of its way to include the issue - despite all the previous controversy. 

Chris, keeping shtum while Michaela talks hen harriers

However, Chris Packham didn't narrate the report and when the report ended it was Michaela Strachan who praised the hen harrier supporters' commitment (without criticising the shooting fraternity). Chris Packham himself just listened and - very conspicuously - said nothing. He merely quipped about something else before the programme moved on.

I'm sure they all felt very clever about that (and rightly so). They got to (subtly) stick two fingers up to those pro-hunting campaigners - who have been campaigning against Chris Packham's campaigning against them this summer - whilst, at the very same time, 'proving' Chris himself to be the very embodiment of BBC impartiality.


  1. I still don't buy the BBC BS that they must reflect the 'diversity' of their audience when the audience of this show isn't actually very diverse.

    This policy is also a statement that the non-white viewers are racists who won't watch something that isn't presented by someone who doesn't look like them.

  2. I have visited an RSPB nature reserve every week for the last few months. It's a busy site, and the hides are always full of people.

    The people are always the same, white middle class. I've only seen one couple that were't, two very nice doctors of Indian background who spoke in a more middle class manner than anybody else.


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