Petition signed by 164,000 to save ‘important’ Autumnwatch handed to BBC

Organiser Marion Veal said she is also meeting director-general Tim Davie in May.
Organiser Marion Veal said she is also meeting director-general Tim Davie in May. Organiser Marion Veal said she is also meeting director-general Tim Davie in May.

A petition to save “important” TV nature series Autumnwatch has been delivered to Broadcasting House, the London headquarters of the BBC.

Marion Veal, 61, from Bromley, started the Change.org petition, which now has 164,000 signatures, following the broadcaster’s announcement that the show would not take place in 2023 and beyond.

The nature series, which features Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan among its presenters, charts the fortunes of British wildlife during the season and airs on BBC Two.

Campaigners outside Broadcasting House in London (Honor Barber/PA)

Ms Veal, an author, told the PA news agency she is meeting the broadcaster’s director-general, Tim Davie, to discuss Autumnwatch in May, and said “we want to know why it was cancelled”.

She added: “It is a family-friendly programme.

“It educates people about the British wildlife at a time of year when a lot of people begin to suffer because it is becoming dark and gloomy.”

“It gives us hope that there are things going on, it is very good for people’s mental health.

“British wildlife is being so tragically depleted so a programme that encourages ordinary people to get out and look at things in their gardens is very important.”

She said the growth of the petition showed “the British public certainly care about wildlife and that we would like our voices to be heard”.

This is the first time Ms Veal has protested against an issue publicly and said wildlife means a “huge amount” to her.

She added: “During lockdown it saved me. It was a lifesaver and it saved my mental health and it did the same for a lot of people.”

“I have met a huge number of people through our love of wildlife.

Michaela Strachan
Michaela Strachan Michaela Strachan is a presenter on the BBC nature show (Joel Ryan/PA)

“I was particularly angry and started the petition because I felt like we weren’t getting a voice.”

Ms Veal wrote a book about an injured fox which she began to care for during lockdown.

She said: “My husband had recently died in November and then we locked down in March, and the fox appeared and I looked after it.

“I treated it, and posted about it online and met people because of it, many of whom have signed the petition because of it.”

The BBC said in a February statement the show would not take place in 2023 and beyond as it seeks to “focus” its resources on content that has “the highest impact”.

It will instead direct more money into sister programmes Springwatch and Winterwatch.

The BBC must find £400 million in annual savings by 2027/28, as outlined in the corporation’s latest annual plan, which was published in March.

A previous statement from the broadcaster 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.”

The BBC has been contacted for further comment.