BBC Studios Productions has announced that head of the Natural History Unit, Julian Hector, , is intending to step down at the end of the year after five years leading the unit, and almost three decades at the BBC.

Since taking over from Wendy Darke in 2016, Hector has presided over the Bristol-based production house while it produced shows including Planet Earth II, Blue Planet II, Dynasties and Seven Worlds, One Planet.

The Natural History Unit, under Hector’s stewardship, has also won a raft of new commissions with both the BBC including The Green Planet and Frozen Planet II – and with new buyers including Apple’s forthcoming The Year The Earth Changed, National Geographic’s Ocean Xplorers, Endangered for Discovery, and The Americas for NBCU.

In the past four years the unit’s output has received over 200 awards, including 4 Emmys and 11 BAFTA TV awards.

Hector began his natural history career at the NHU in 1993, producing series like Battle Of The Sexes and Wild Africa and on radio, Slaves To Nature. On becoming Editor of Natural History Radio he led the development and production of award-winning programmes such as Tweet Of The Day, World On The Move, Saving Species, Shared Planet, Natural Histories and Migration Live. He went on to become an executive producer in television, producing hard-hitting Ivory Wars with Panorama and hits such as Tigers About The House.

In 2019, the Natural History Unit and Sir David Attenborough accepted the Chatham House Prize for the impact of Blue Planet II from Her Majesty The Queen.

Following his departure from the NHU, Hector will pursue other interests connected to wildlife and championing the natural world.

Tom McDonald, BBC Studios’ MD of Factual said: “I have nothing but admiration for Julian – he’s been an exceptional colleague. During his tenure, he has put the natural world and the NHU’s people at the centre of his thinking so his departure at the end of the year will be bittersweet. He has transformed the NHU, growing the business and transforming its culture. His legacy will be felt for many years to come – in our output, in the opening of NHU LA and in innumerable other ways.” 

Julian Hector, Head of BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit added: “It’s a wrench to leave the helm of the Natural History Unit after five wonderful years. I feel honoured to have led the world’s best wildlife filmmaking team in creating such hugely influential work. Rest assured I will continue to weave the natural world into all I do and will always champion the public service ideals of the BBC, surely one of the most important cultural and civilising institutions in the world.”

BBC Studios search for Hector’s successor will begin immediately.

Jon Creamer