The BBC has admitted that footage of a volcanic eruption screened as part of its natural history blockbuster series, Patagonia: Earth’s Secret Paradise, was faked. The scene, purporting to depict a single volcano in eruption, was actually created by splicing together eruptions from two separate volcanoes. One eruption took place in 2011, the other in 2015.

The admission is likely to trigger a new row over the use of digital techniques to make documentaries more dramatic and popular, and will embroil the corporation in further controversy at a time when its finances and remit are under parliamentary scrutiny.

Staff at the BBC’s natural history unit – which made the series – were also said to be angry about the inclusion of the doctored scene, which they fear could erode trust in their output. “If we falsify one scene, who is going to believe anything else in that programme or, for that matter, any other film that we produce,” one staff member told the Observer.

The new row comes after a bitter battle in 2011 over the BBC’s natural history series Frozen Planet, which contained footage that was said to show polar bears being born in the wild when, in fact, it was filmed at a manmade den in a German animal park.

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