The makers of the popular British TV series Frozen Planet have got into a tangle over their polar bear scenes. A bear giving birth to her young turns out to have been filmed at a Dutch zoo, instead of in the Arctic.
Even British politicians are becoming involved. Conservative MP John Whittingdale argued that the makers should have made it clear in the documentary how they shot the delivery.
The contested episode of Frozen Planet focused on a female polar bear. David Attenborough's voice-over explained how the pregnant female makes a den when the snow is thick enough. Cut to footage of the delivery.
The BBC, which is airing Frozen Planet, denies that the public have been misled. Even before the episode was broadcast the Frozen Planet website described how the delivery was filmed. Moreover, according to producer Alastair Fothergill, it was simply impossible to film a birth like that at the North Pole itself. The crew would have disturbed the bear, he said.
Narrator David Attenborough told British morning TV why the zoo was not mentioned in his commentary:
"It ruins the atmosphere, and destroys the pleasure of the viewers and destroys the atmosphere you are trying to create. It's not a falsehood and we don't keep it secret either. But to say actually in the middle of that sequence, I mean how far do you take this?
Do you say this is a penguin, but actually it was a different penguin colony than this one and this one is a different one? Come on, we were making movies."
Every episode of Frozen Planet draws some 8 million viewers in the UK, and in the Netherlands too the series is scoring well.