Thousands of outraged Autumnwatch fans sign petition to save the show
THOUSANDS of outraged fans of the BBC's Autumnwatch have signed a petition calling for the programme to be saved saying "it's what we pay our licence fee for".
Nearly 50,000 fans have put their name to the online petition in the wake of the announcement that the nature series, which features Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan among its presenters, is to be cancelled, with the BBC saying it faces "challenging times financially".
Ms Strachan yesterday took to Twitter to say she has been "overwhelmed" by support for the show that charts the fortunes of British wildlife during the season and traditionally airs on BBC Two.
The BBC said the show would not take place in 2023 and beyond as it seeks to "focus" its resources on content that has "the highest impact".
Instead, it will direct more money into sister programmes Springwatch and Winterwatch.
A statement said: "These are challenging times financially and we need to make difficult decisions and focus our resources on content that has the highest impact.
"Sadly, this means that Autumnwatch will not be continuing. Instead, we are investing more money into Springwatch and Winterwatch, as they are most popular with audiences.
"We are incredibly proud of the Watches and would like to thank the presenters and production team who will continue on Springwatch when it returns in May for three weeks, and Winterwatch when it returns next year for one week, reduced from two weeks."
The Watch programmes are broadcast live from locations around the country and rely on dozens of crew and hidden cameras operated remotely.
The series began in 2005, with the success of Springwatch prompting the BBC to commission a one-off special of Autumnwatch, which became a full series in 2006.
Winterwatch began in 2012.
At petition site change.org, organiser Marion Veal said: "Thousands of UK TV licence payers enjoy the 'Watches', Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch. It's what we pay our licence fee for. It is an example of what the BBC does best.
"In an age when the natural world faces its greatest threat, when British species are on the Red List and threatened with extinction, when we are recognising the value of the natural world for our mental health it is beyond belief to learn that Autumnwatch has been cancelled.
"The BBC say it is for financial reasons.
"We ask that the BBC saves money in other ways and gives the paying public a programme they really want. Keep Autumnwatch."
When the announcement was made, Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said the end of Autumnwatch offered an opportunity for the BBC to "rebalance its wildlife programming".
He added: "The BBC covers many rural issues well and produces lots of good countryside content, but there have been concerns about Autumnwatch's unrealistic and anthropomorphic approach for many years."
The BBC has delivered more than £1 billion of savings in the five years to 2021/22.
It needs to save a further £285 million in response to the announcement in January 2022 that the licence fee will be frozen for the next two years.
Ms Strachan tweeted: "I've been overwhelmed at all the comments about #autumnwatch & the BBC's decision to axe it this year. Goes to show how treasured the Watches are. Of course it's disappointing, but let's focus on the positives, @BBCSpringwatch is not far away & we'll work hard to make it a corker."