by Jocelyn Fong, in a Media Matters repost
For the past few weeks, we’ve had to wait patiently while our friends across the Atlantic enjoy the BBC’s seven-part Frozen Planet series on life at the poles, which won’t air in the U.S. until the new year.
This sequel to Blue Planet and Planet Earth — two of the greatest programs to have ever come through my television — took four years, dozens of cameramen, 28 helicopters and 2 ice-breaking ships to make. The effort has been described by producer Vanessa Berlowitz as perhaps “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.”
Series narrator Sir David Attenborough, who has previously been reluctant to discuss the human environmental footprint in his films, spends the final episode “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,” according to The Guardian.
But now we learn that after earning “massive ratings” from Planet Earth and collaborating with BBC to produce the sequel, the Discovery Channel will not air the climate change episode of Frozen Planet in the U.S. due to a “scheduling issue.”
The Arctic is called ground zero for global warming because it’s heating up faster than anywhere else on the planet, and changes there can further amplify warming and push up sea level against the world’s coasts. U.S. Geological Survey scientist Steven Amstrup says “the Arctic is a different world than it was in 1980 when I first started going up there.” While we’ve read reports and seen data about the changes, it’s been difficult to really grasp since the region is so unfamiliar and so rarely depicted in the media.
Which is why Frozen Planet would seem like an ideal opportunity for us to learn what is going on up there — an indispensable opportunity, really, given the scale and distinction of this project. The decision to nix the final episode feels very “heads in the sand,” even if Discovery incorporates some “elements” of the climate change discussion into the other episodes, as it reportedly plans to do.
Not to mention that there is precious little science on the Discovery Channel these days. Yesterday Discovery aired four hours of “American Chopper,” a reality show about guys who build motorcycles; seven hours of “Auction Kings,” a reality show about people selling old stuff; and two hours of “Cash Cab,” which, OK, I don’t really have a problem with. But what exactly is the “scheduling issue?” To cut 15 percent of a one-time production of the highest quality for one of those shows is simply incomprehensible.
Give us the science, Discovery, we can handle it.
— Jocelyn Fong, Media Matters