By 3 News online staff
BBC bosses have blocked a British TV show's attempt to listen for signals from a planet thousands of light years away – in case its inhabitants had something to say.
Prof Brian Cox, who has worked on experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, hosts the BBC 2 show Stargazing Live. When he told the producers of his plan to point a radio telescope at Threapleton Holmes B – a planet discovered by a pair of amateur astronomers back in January – they said it would be a breach of health and safety regulations.
"We decided that we'd point the Jodrell Bank telescope at the planet that had been discovered by these two viewers and listen, because no one had ever pointed a radio telescope at it and you never know," Prof Cox told radio station BBC 6.
"The BBC actually said, 'But you can’t do that because we need to go through the regulations and health and safety and everything in case we discover a signal from an alien civilisation.'
"[I said], 'You mean we would discover the first hint that there is other intelligent life in the universe beyond Earth, live on air, and you're worried about the health and safety of it?' It was incredible. They did have guidelines. Compliance."
BBC 6 host Shaun Keaveny could hardly believe Prof Cox's claim.
"The idea that intelligent life could be discovered, and it might swear, and that's why we wouldn't broadcast it – it's such a brilliant BBC thing, isn't it?"
Prof Cox also revealed another bizarre encounter whilst making the show.
"This year we were thinking of doing something about Mars. There are lots of maps of Mars and lots of things that people can do looking at them that computers can't. We were thinking of… looking for signs of geological activity which might point to life on Mars.
"Someone from the BBC said to me, 'Would there have to be a prize if someone discovered it?' I said, "What do you mean? You're going to say to someone, you discovered the first evidence for alien life beyond Earth - and here's a book voucher as well?
"You think that's going to make it better? You're going to go down in history with a Nobel prize - book tokens or Nectar points?"
A spokesperson for the BBC responded to Prof Cox's claims, saying: "In making the series there were many light hearted conversations, one of which was about how different organisations might react to the discovery of alien life."