Chinese state funds behind BBC's Attenborough series

 

Viewers hypnotised by the BBC's landmark series Africa, with its stunning images of fighting giraffes and baby turtles scuttling into the sea, are watching pictures partly funded by the state of China, it can be disclosed.

David Attenborough and the BBC’s acclaimed Natural History Unit are the stars of the wildlife spectacular but China Central Television (CCTV) emerged as late co-production partner and has become a key player in the global market for factual television blockbusters.

CCTV is also a key funder of a BBC landmark science series, Wonders of Life, which will be presented by Brian Cox and is to be shown later this year on BBC2, examining the story of life through physics. The Chinese also provided funds for last month’s BBC1 science series Supersized Earth, hosted by Dallas Campbell.

Buyers from China will be VIP attendees at the BBC’s annual showcase which takes place at Liverpool’s Albert Dock next month, when the organisation sells its wares to the world’s broadcasters to offset a freeze on the licence fee.

“CCTV is really quite an important partner in terms of factual programming now,” said Mark Reynolds, Director of Factual at BBC Worldwide. “We are going to talk to them about other projects coming up in the future because with the cost of these big productions we are always looking to bring in new partners where it’s the right editorial fit for them.”

The BBC’s relationship with China began ahead of the Beijing Olympics when it partnered with CCTV to make the six-part BBC2 documentary series Wild China, which was transmitted at the time of the 2008 games.

The BBC has stationed a senior sales representative in Beijing to manage its business with the Chinese state broadcaster, which manages a network of 22 channels.

“We want to continue that relationship in the high end factual programming,” said Reynolds. “Sometimes they are buying completed programmes right through to this more in depth co-production relationship. The focus at the moment is on them being a key co-production partner on our big landmark series.”

His colleague Jo Sermon, also Director of Factual at BBC Worldwide, praised China’s CCTV9 channel, which fills its schedule with documentary shows. “They are pitching for the best of the world’s factual they really are astute what they take,” she said. “They regularly get audiences of 90 million.”

BBC Worldwide has also signed digital deals with the Chinese cable channels Wasu and Chunghwa to screen BBC shows, and has a similar relationship with video-on-demand sites BesTV and Qiyi (which is described as the Chinese version of American online TV platform Hulu).

The BBC Showcase, which is of critical importance in generating revenues for the broadcaster at a time when many departments are facing budget cuts, will this year be attended by a record number of 700 international delegates.

The Africa series will be given star billing and has the potential to be sold for broadcast on mobile devices and as a video-on-demand service as well as being offered in traditional television rights deals.

BBC executives expect it will be sold to more than 200 countries and are hopeful that it will exceed the popularity of Attenborough’s Planet Earth which was bought in 245 territories, a BBC record.

Ms Sermon said foreign buyers had initially been doubtful that Africa could deliver pictures that were not already familiar to natural history audiences. “There was definitely a reaction right at the beginning of ‘What is there that we haven’t seen?’ – there was scepticism, there’s no question,” she said. “But the show has genuinely turned people’s views around and people are eating their words.”

Mike Gunton, creative director at the BBC Natural History Unit (NHU), praised the scientists working in Africa who had supplied the production team with untold stories from their latest research. “You couldn’t just do another wildebeest crossing another lion hunt that had been so many times,” he said.

American ecologist Craig Packer provided the tip for a sequence on lizards eating flies off the backs of lions. “You want lions in your series obviously but doing things other than the traditional lion behaviour,” said Gunton. “This was perfect – not only were they in it and looking lovely but for once being the stooges and not the heroes.”

Meerkat expert Tim Clutton-Brock gave Gunton’s team a quirky tale of Britain’s favourite mongoose being duped by a drongo bird. “We didn’t want to do another story where meerkats were the heroes - we wanted to flip it on its head.”

And the ground-breaking imagery taken by camera operator Justine Evans of Black Rhinos partying at night was the result of a technological breakthrough in the community of wildlife camera specialists based in the West Country, close to the NHU. “We were able to get those images without any illuminations, even infra-red lights, just using the light of the moon and the stars,” said Gunton.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor