Discovery Channel pulls climate change programming because we’re all idiots anyway

Frozen Planet BBC

A while back, I wrote a post that focused a bit on how America’s obsession with dumb dictates our means of entertainment; what we watch, read and in turn believe is indicative of who we are as a modern culture.

Which is why – for me, anyway – it is altogether refreshing when television programming that seeks to inform, enlighten, inspire and educate while, of course, entertaining even the harshest critic is offered to a national audience.

A few years back, the BBC’s Planet Earth debuted on The Discovery Channel to dropped-jaws and subsequent stellar ratings across the country, followed by its inevitable and equally successful sequel, Blue Planet. The programs – each a beautifully rendered tale of life, beauty and chaos in the natural world – offered high-definition glimpses into the ever-changing landscape of life outside the human realm and highlighted the plight faced by some of the world’s most delicate and endangered creatures and places alike.

Filmed over several years by some of the foremost researchers, scientists and filmmakers in the world, the films were emotionally, mentally and visually spell-binding; they intelligently spoke to the viewers’ mind, heart and soul in ways never seen before on the small screen.

Unfortunately, intelligence doesn’t sell too well in this market.

Over the past few weeks, television-watchers and would-be wildlife and nature enthusiasts in Europe have been treated to the newest installment in BBC’s line up – the seven-part Frozen Planet series. The series – which is said to beautifully document life at the world’s Arctic regions – took four years to create and is scheduled to air in the U.S. in 2012.

According to series producer Vanessa Berlowitz, Frozen Planet is “our last chance to record these astonishing wildernesses that have existed untouched by humans for millennia and that, within a century, may change beyond recognition.

But as it turns out, the BBC and The Discovery Channel have opted to NOT air the program’s final episode centered around the unfortunately controversial subject of climate change – in which narrator Sir David Attenborough goes “on location, talking to the camera in his own measured words about shrinking glaciers, warming oceans and the threat posed by man-made global warming” [The Guardian] –  due to a “scheduling issue.”

Because, of course, The Discovery Channel – what with it’s ground-breaking, “scientific” programming, including such national mainstays and ratings-juggernauts as Auction Kings, American Chopper, Dirty Jobs, Dirty Money, Carfellas, American Guns, Sons of Guns, Swamp Brothers, Swamp Loggers and Gold Rush: Alaska – just couldn’t fit the one climate change-centric episode of Frozen Planet into their scheduled programming for the entire year of 2012.

“It’s a bit like pressing the stop button on Titanic just as the iceberg appears,” a representative with Greenpeace told The Telegraph. “Climate change is the most important part of the polar story, the warming in the Arctic can’t be denied, it’s changing the environment there in ways that are making experts fearful for the future.”

Given the immense scale of the Frozen Planet series and the Arctic regions’ directly-affected ties to climate change, one would think that Discovery – should they be more interested in actual discovery than entertainment – would consider airing the episode a tremendous opportunity to bring the subject of climate change to the forefront of the viewing American public.

Instead, they opted to shorten the series by nixing what could possibly be the most important scientific “takeaway” from the production while making room for more televised nonsense that has little-to-no bearing on our world yet speaks volumes on where we have gone as a culture.

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  • Zach

    I’m sure the same tired excuse will be trotted out – “We’re only responding to what our viewers want.” Unfortunately, this denies the media’s role in shaping those wants, while still not explaining why Discovery is not airing a compelling counterargument If they’re worried about backlash from climate change deniers, air the episode and just put some kind of disclaimer before and after about how “The Discovery Channel has no formal position on the climate change debate and does not specifically endorse any of the claims made in the following documentary.” That would at least show more balls than hiding behind the laughable “scheduling difficulty” – rightly lampooned in this post.

  • Paolo

    Excellen, excellent point. The damage done by such shameless policies should receive more exposure. Besides the point in the article, also the appalling glorification of the ocean’s devastation by macho fishermen in Discovery Channel would deserve some criticism in the media. Thinking that the channel was born to air (also) science it’s utterly depressing.