Dutch TV Station Censors Evolution from British Nature Progs; did BBC Collude?

I’m a few days late with this; from Dutch News (link added)

Religious TV station EO on Monday defended its editing of wildlife documentaries to remove references to evolution.

Director Henk Hagoort told Trouw that editing was normal in bought-in programmes. ‘That also happens in drama series if, for example, there is a lot of swearing’.

On Saturday it emerged that the BBC documentary Life of Mammals by David Attenborough had been edited, and one entire programme scrapped because of its focus on evolution.

EO is “Evangelische Omroep”, or “Evangelical Broadcast“; although a religious TV station, it is also the country’s largest public broadcaster. Details in English are scarce, but blog Greene’s Insite gives us a window on some of the reports:

What a let-down, then, to read in my favourite morning paper, that the EO has admitted to editing out from their radio and TV offerings – especially nature films and documentaries – any material that might be construed as supporting the notion of evolution. In fact, the mere mention of the word may set the censor’s scissors a-snippin’. This came to light when a lecturer at Utrecht University (subject: evolutionary biology) compared a series of nature films by David Attenborough in versions shown by the BBC, the Belgian TV station Canvas and the EO. The lecturer in question, Gerdien de Jong, found that, while the others broadcast the films in their entirety, the EO consistently removed any footage that might cast doubt on the biblical conviction that man was created by god. Also, the texts of voice-overs sometimes differed from those in the original version. Not very ethical, you’d say, but EO director Henk Hagoort is unrepentant: “We’ve been ‘adapting’ nature films since we started”, he says, “It’s no secret. We don’t believe that man descends from monkeys.” But is it right to deny viewers access to evolutionary theories? “I had to laugh when I heard that”, Hagoort says, “We don’t shirk the debate on evolution. We once broadcast a panel discussion on the subject of ‘Adam Or Ape?’ But we’re certainly not going to champion evolution theories in nature films.”

According to Hagoort in Dutch News,

“the decision not to buy the one episode which focused on evolution had been discussed with the BBC”

But what about the other editing? The Hague Online offers a clue, but its report lacks clarity:

…He said that the changes had been agreed with the BBC. The BBC was not aware of this, but said that cuts were permissible as long as the essential character of the programme remained unchanged.

Dropping references to evolution not only undermines the integrity of Attenborough’s documentaries – it helps to promote fundamentalist claims that there is no real evidence for evolutionary biology. If the BBC has agreed to this, it is a gross betrayal of its remit. The blog Waffle adds the point that

by selling exclusive rights to the series to a broadcaster that cuts out references to evolution, they have effectively prevented the uncut series being shown by another broadcaster. That way, the EO can effectively censor the series for the general public.

The author also suggests that EO has been attempting to become more professional in recent years (“they have come a long way since the days when they classed dinosaurs with fairytale animals in their quiz shows”), and that many of those within the organisation will be less than pleased with Hagoort’s explanation.

(Hat tip: The Pagan Prattle. Comparative clips of the British original and the Dutch censored version can be seen at Cloggie)

2 Responses

  1. EO is making an effort to be more professional???

    Just how professional can you be when you clip all evidence of a well established scientific theory from your broadcasts simply because you don’t want to hear anything that goes against your religious beliefs?

  2. There’s an ethical issue here, I think, that isn’t really being explored. A nominally Christian organization pays to get the rights to keep facts from being exposed. This is called a “cover up” in the U.S. We nearly impeached a president for doing it once, but he had the decency to resign and save us the trouble.
    Should we trust a broadcast organization whose ethics are below those of Richard Nixon?

    And isn’t there something seamy about any group paying to cover up facts of nature? Nature, to Christians, is a testament of God.

    So, what does it mean when a nominally Christian organization pays to cover up a testament of God? Isn’t that contrary to some commandment?

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