Winding up the BBC Wildlife Fund

Thursday 4 August 2011, 15:50

George Entwistle George Entwistle Director General of the BBC

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We set up the BBC Wildlife Fund in 2007 to raise awareness and funds for endangered species and conservation projects around the world. Alongside a number of other fund-raising efforts, BBC television hosted two major broadcast appeals which, thanks to the generosity of the British public, helped push the total amount raised to date to more than £3million.

That money has helped to protect a wide range of species - from cuckoos to hedgehogs and even Siamese crocodiles. We are very proud of what we've achieved - but, as you probably know, the BBC is now at a stage when we have to look very hard at all the activities the organisation undertakes - and that includes its charitable work.

Unfortunately, we have concluded that we will no longer be able to provide editorial support to the Wildlife Fund in future.

Our audiences will know the BBC is involved in several different kinds of charitable work and fundraising activity - from Children in Need and Comic Relief to Blue Peter and the St Martin-in-the-Fields Christmas Appeal to name a few.

Bearing in mind our need to reduce the amount of work we do in this area (just as in some others) we commissioned a review to set clearer boundaries and produce a sensible and sustainable appeals strategy for the future. Sadly the review concluded that if the BBC was unable to support the Wildlife Fund with programming then the fund should be wound up.

There will of course be many people who feel that £3million has been enough to make a huge difference to many different wildlife projects - and that the possibility of further fund-raising should not lightly be abandoned. I agree that what we've done with the Wildlife Fund has been a remarkable achievement. But set against the amount of editorial and production work required to generate this level of return, and taking into account the competing demands for our budgets, we've decided - with great regret - that it's simply not something we can continue to support.

It's important to note that it's not for the BBC itself to say the Wildlife Fund will be shut down. That decision can only be made by the fund's trustees. But after I met the trustees earlier today, and explained to them why the BBC has decided we are no longer able to provide editorial support to the charity, they have decided to wind down the fund. They will, of course, continue to monitor and evaluate existing grants. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them - and the fund's brilliant team - for their tremendous work over the past four years.

The BBC's remit to inform, educate and entertain remains as relevant today as when it was first described. And though we are no longer able to support the Wildlife Fund itself, the work of informing and educating our audiences through award-winning programming about the natural world remains as powerful a commitment for us as it's ever been. We continue to believe that furnishing our audience with a rich understanding of natural history is the most important contribution we can make to its conservation.

George Entwistle is Director of BBC Vision

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