David Attenborough, 97, defends BBC licence fee ahead of price hike as he lauds 'worldwide effect' of content

David Attenborough, 97, defends BBC licence fee ahead of price hike as he lauds 'worldwide effect' of content

WATCH HERE: The BBC drops new trailer for David Attenborough series Mammals

Alex Davies

By Alex Davies

Published: 29/03/2024

- 15:29

The veteran documentary maker is returning to the BBC on Sunday night with his new series, Mammals

Sir David Attenborough has lauded the BBC and the licence fee ahead of its price rise and his own return to screens.

As part of the BBC Studios' natural history unit (NHU), Attenborough and his team have spent the past five years filming and piecing together upcoming docu-series Mammals.

Premiering on Sunday, March 31, Attenborough's latest project comes just days before the BBC plans to increase the licence fee in April.

The licence fee has been frozen for two years amid a cost-of-living crisis but in April, the price will rise from £159 to £169.50 a year.

But despite his programming and collaboration with the NHU being a product of the BBC's commercial wing, meaning it is often funded by international commercial companies in a joint effort, Attenborough threw his backing behind the need for taxpayers to continue paying.

According to the Guardian, at a London screening of Mammals Attenborough lamented the effect the BBC’s shows have on a global stage, stating that "world opinion change as a consequence of the natural history unit".

Sir David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough has defended the BBC licence fee


"Nobody else can hold a candle to it… it’s had a worldwide effect."

The NHU hasn't been exempt from its own measures, with seven percent of its roles being cut, although Attenborough said it's "something the BBC can be very, very proud of".

"The NHU is an extraordinary worldwide organisation which has no parallel anywhere else."

During his defence of the licence fee, Attenborough told attendees that while their may be funding from elsewhere, the NHU was established with taxpayer money and has been "a benefit" of "a public service backed by the nation".

Attenborough and the NHU aren't the only features in the Beeb's commercial wing either, with shows like Doctor Who striking up international deals with the likes of Disney.

Doctor Who boss Russell T Davies addressed this earlier this week when he discussed needing to collaborate with Disney to future-proof the show should the BBC meet its demise.

BBC boss Tim Davie also spoke out about the need for collaboration with commercial companies as he looks to cut costs across the board - but refuses to turn to adverts on the corporation's linear output.

He told Sky News: "I want to protect on my watch a commercial-free BBC offer.

BBC Mammals

BBC Mammals debuts on Sunday night on BBC One


"The reason why Doctor Who looks slightly more well-resourced than it did two seasons ago is because of a wonderful deal with Disney.

"And if you take David Attenborough, with some of the finest programs of our generation, they're often majority funded by commercial companies internationally.

"So, we can invest as long as we keep editorial control of our values, and I think actually we should grow the BBC's commercial arm."

While it may avoid adverts on its output, the Beeb has revealed that it's considering running ads on podcasts distributed on third-party platforms in the future.

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