Director slams BBC for gag on wind farm film

A BAFTA-nominated documentary maker has accused the BBC of banning his latest film about life in a remote Highland glen because it shows a lack of impartiality about wind farms.

BBC bosses part-funded the short film Arcadia by controversial Scots film producer David Graham Scott.

But the BBC has refused to broadcast the finished film, warning Scott that the documentary does not meet its strict rules on objectivity.

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Shot in Caithness, Arcadia includes footage of protests against a new wind farm development in Thrumster, near Wick, including a sequence where local residents burn a large "wicker-man" style wind farm turbine to the ground.

Scott is angry that his film has been prevented from being broadcast while the BBC has allowed the BNP leader Nick Griffin a platform to express extremist views. Wind farm campaigners back Scott, claiming the decision shows that the BBC is "biased" against them.

Last week, in a post on his website, Scott told followers he had received an e-mail from the BBC telling him it would not broadcast the film due to "impartiality" guidelines. He wrote: "While Nick Griffin speaks freely on the BBC, Douglas Graham Scott is banned."

Scott said: "This was not meant to be a political film. It is more about the impact of modernity on an ancient landscape where people are having to cope with the modern world.

"I don't have a problem with the BBC's impartiality guidelines, but I think my film has been misinterpreted. I wouldn't want to alter the film to get it broadcast as that might ruin it."

This is the first time any of Scott's work has faced a BBC blackout.

In his most controversial work, Detox Or Die, Scott filmed himself injecting heroin into his neck. The film followed his painful journey trying to quit the drug and was broadcast by the BBC in 2004 as part of its One Life series. The film went on to gain international acclaim, winning a gold medal at the 2005 New York Film festival.

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In 2008, the BBC broadcast his film The New 10 Commandments, in which a Scottish republican protester launches a two-minute rant against the Royal family. No cuts were demanded to that film before it was broadcast.

Other controversial films by Scott broadcast by the BBC include The Dirty Digger, detailing life on a Glasgow-based crime magazine, and Wirecutters, following three homeless people as they try to scrape a living selling melted down scrap metal.

He was nominated for a Bafta for his 2001 film Little Criminals, following the lives of drug addicted teenagers in Glasgow.

A source close to his latest film said: "When you look at the controversial nature of his earlier films, David Graham Scott has made some very edgy stuff. It has all been broadcast on the BBC without complaint.

"Yet here we have a gentle and very beautiful film set in the Highlands, yet it is banned for expressing 'dangerous views' on wind farms."

Protesters fighting the impact of wind farms in Scotland insist the film should be aired to highlight one of the biggest issues in rural Scotland amid the plight of communities where the farms are planned.

Bob Graham, who has fought a long-running campaign against wind farms across Scotland because of their visual impact, said: "The BBC has a duty to show realistic depictions of what wind farms can do to fragile environments and communities. They say the film is biased. I would say the BBC is biased in favour of wind farms, and that is why it will not show this documentary."

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The BBC part-funded Arcadia as part of the Scottish Documentary Institute's Bridging The Gap series. It is believed to have cost 16,000 to make.

It is one of seven films shot through the Bridging The Gap programme, which seeks to promote work by young Scots directors.

Since 2008, BBC Scotland has provided funding, along with the National Lottery and Scottish Screen.

A BBC spokesman insisted the corporation was under no obligation to show Arcadia. He said: "Although the BBC is a co-investor in Bridging The Gap, we do not give an undertaking that all the films will be transmitted.

"We have provisionally selected some of the films for transmission, but the details of when they might be shown have yet to be finalised. The final decision is being taken on quality grounds.

"Four out of the seven films are currently under consideration as being worthy of transmission and Arcadia is not one of those."

The Scottish Documentary Institute, which also backed the film, confirmed that it wasn't being broadcast by the BBC.

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Institute director Noemie Mendelle said: "Scottish Documentary Institute is very grateful of the support and investment by BBC Scotland into our annual Bridging The Gap scheme, which is a training and production initiative encouraging a diversity of aesthetics and narratives in short documentaries. They have proven to be successful for festival and cinema distribution, but are not necessarily always in tune with the BBC's editorial line."