Makers of the £16 million, seven-part documentary series were accused of misleading its eight million viewers into believing the scene, showing a polar bear tending her newborn cubs was a genuine arctic shot.

Sir David Attenborough, who presented the documentary, failed to reveal the scene was set up.

John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons, Culture, Media and Sport Committee described the misrepresentation as “hugely disappointing”.

He said: “My view has always been that all broadcasters should not seek to give viewers a false impression and it is much better if they are entirely open.

“If this was not filmed in the wild it would have been much better to have made that clear in the commentary.

“It’s questionable how many people would visit the website and find the video clip which explained the circumstances of the filming.”

The footage, broadcast on November 25, shows genuine footage of a male polar bear scavenging for food during the harsh Arctic winter, then the camera pans to a frozen hillside, before cutting to a close-up of a female polar bear hibernating with her newborn cubs.

Apparently referring to the same bear family, the naturalist said: “On these side slopes beneath the snow new lives are beginning. The cubs are born blind and tiny. An early birth is easier on the mother.”

His commentary continued: “In two more months polar bear families will emerge on the snowy slopes all round the Arctic.”

The camera then moves from the snowy tundra to the dark nest, watching the cubs nuzzle up to their mother, as he says: “But for now they lie protected within their icy cocoons.”

Fans were enthralled. One wrote online after the show: “The camera team would be in a whole heap of s*** if mummy had woken up.”

In reality, the den was made of plaster and wood beneath a German zoo’s polar bear enclosure. It was fitted with cameras shortly before the cubs’ birth.

On the website, producer Kathryn Jeffs explains how the film was made last Christmas, saying it would be impractical to film the carnivores in the wild.

She said:  “They stay in the pole through the winter and the female polar bears actually give birth at the peak of winter.
“The problem for us is that they do it underneath the snow in these dens of ice and there’s absolutely no way we can get our cameras down there.”

Last night the BBC insisted: “The commentary accompanying the sequence is carefully worded so it doesn’t mislead the audience.”

The spokesman added Sir David was aware captive bears were used in the nest scene, adding: “He knows it would have been impossible in the wild.”