David Attenborough’s “defection” to Netflix to voice natural history series Our Planet was a “one-off”, the producer behind the programme has said.
Alastair Fothergill, whose Silverback Films also made Planet Earth and The Blue Planet for the BBC, said the corporation should not worry about Attenborough making a more permanent move.
He said the revered naturalist, 92, was still “very much involved” in a number of BBC series and his decision to work on the Netflix-funded project should not be seen as a “defection”.
Mr Fothergill said: “I can tell you quite a lot about the Sir David defection. I don’t think Sir David would describe it as a defection.
“He is still very much involved in the upcoming landmark series for the BBC. This was a bit of a one-off. He did it because I asked him to, actually.”
He spoke alongside Jane Turton, chief executive of the All3Media Group, whose productions include Fleabag and Call The Midwife, during a Lords Communications Committee evidence session about the future of public service broadcasters.
He said: “I needed to work with the World Wildlife Fund and when I first pitched it to the BBC – who wanted it very much – I said to them, ‘I have to work with the WWF’.
“And as a public service broadcaster they were not comfortable with that.
— Our Planet (@ourplanet) April 5, 2019
“We also knew we needed a very large website to carry the message and the BBC don’t fund big websites other than news and sport.
“Initially the WWF were going to fund it and then Netflix came in and funded the whole lot. Sir David was happy to come because of the project. He really hasn’t defected at all.”
Our Planet took four years to make and was the first Netflix series for Attenborough, who had previously fronted programmes for Sky and digital channel Eden.
Watch: Our Planet on Netflix now
It took viewers from the Arctic wilderness to the diverse jungles of South America, with never-before-seen footage of wildlife, to reveal the importance of nature and the steps needed to protect it.
Mr Fothergill also revealed that his company was working with Netflix on another natural history series which he again described as a “one-off”.
He said: “We are now working on a series for Netflix that I don’t think the BBC and (its commercial arm, BBC Studios) would have been able to afford, but that’s a bit of a one-off.”