Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-797576ffbb-k7d4m Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-12-11T10:40:37.718Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Chapter 5 - Going South: The Results

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2023

Get access

Summary

Introduction

Carol Hughes, eventually perhaps habituated enough to trust me with a major revelation, one day said her husband David’s mantra was: ‘Not the BBC’. Why, given some of his most important films were made for them and that he had in part been trained by them, and given the general esteem in which the BBC’s Natural History Unit (NHU) and David Attenborough are held, might he have seen them as a negative principle? To understand the distinctive strengths of Southern African wildlife documentaries, it is useful to extract some of the NHU’s key operating principles as they were at once the source of its distinctive achievements but also point to some of their weaknesses and to the niches in the wildlife ecosphere the Southern Africans tried to fill.

The NHU

The histories of the BBC’s Natural History Unit examined earlier (Bright, Davies, Gouyon, Louson) illustrate the strengths of this institution but also suggest its corollary weaknesses. As I argued earlier, the weakness of the accounts of the NHU is both theoretical and historical in that they try to extract the NHU from the larger competitive broadcasting and production contexts. To try to write the history of the NHU without looking at what other broadcasters were doing or who was winning the ratings wars or industry accolades is to miss the way in which the field (to invoke Bourdieu) was developing and changing.

Let us put aside the greater home audience for most US productions and note that for much of the past half century, the NHU was not even the dominant wildlife broadcaster in the UK. Survival, with a strong component of Southern African material and with a South African born producer Mike Hay, was drawing much larger audiences (Gouyon 2019, 116). Partridge, as Davies pointed out, won the big competition prizes for most of the 1980s. And it didn’t stop there. Ellen Windemuth recalls in 2000 walking to collect the Golden Panda for the Foster brothers’ The Great Dance past rows of shocked BBC figures. If that didn’t happen in 2020 when Craig Foster won for My Octopus Teacher it was only because the event that year was virtual because of the COVID pandemic.

Type
Chapter
Information
Wildlife Documentaries in Southern Africa
From East to South
, pp. 57 - 70
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2022

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×