Heated debate cools off BBC 'Planet' plans


In the end, it just proved too hot to handle for the BBC. The environment, that is.

The pubcaster on Thursday said that it has axed plans for an ambitious daylong TV, radio and online event devoted to highlighting the damaging effect of climate change, earning the ire of environmentalists, who have branded the decision "intellectually bankrupt."

The decision to drop "Planet Relief" came after a fierce internal debate about editorial impartiality, during which several senior BBC news figures broke cover to argue that the pubcaster should not be biased on the climate change debate.

Announcing the decision to scrap the project — which had been 18 months in the making and was set to be a BBC1 schedule highlight — the pubcaster said it made the decision because viewers "preferred factual information" on climate issues.

"Our audiences tell us they are most receptive to documentary or factual-style programming as a means of learning about the issues surrounding this subject," a BBC spokeswoman said. "As part of this learning, we have made the decision not to go ahead with the 'Planet Relief' event."

"Planet Relief," which was to have been hosted by BBC talent including Jonathan Ross and Ricky Gervais, aimed to raise awareness of environmental issues and included plans for a U.K.-wide "switch-off" campaign to conserve energy.

But the project caused anxiety among some of the corporation's most senior news and current affairs executives, who earlier this month attacked the project as "not impartial."

"It is absolutely not the BBC's job to lead opinion or proselytize on this or any other subject," head of BBC TV News Peter Horrocks said on a BBC blog.

In a heated panel debate at the Edinburgh International Television Festival last month, Peter Barron, editor of the BBC flagship news show "Newsnight," said it was "not the BBC's job to save the planet."