Media companies pledge to do more as they chart climate progress

The UK’s major TV and film organisations have outlined  their steps to drive greater sustainability both in front and behind the cameras with the message it is determined to go further and faster.

BAFTA albert, the TV and film industry organisation for environmental sustainability, has published an update from the largest media brands in the UK and Ireland on the progress of the industry’s  Climate Content Pledge, one year after it was signed alongside COP26 in Glasgow.

Designed to improve on-screen storytelling around climate change action, the Pledge brings together 12 of the UK and Ireland’s largest media brands: the BBC, BBC Studios, BritBox International, Channel 4, Channel 5/ Paramount UK, Warner Bros. Discovery UK & Ireland (previously Discovery UK & Ireland), ITV, RTE, S4C, Sky, STV, UKTV.

It said as part of the Pledge, programmes including ‘climate content’ are now reaching audiences,  and winning awards, across a wide range of genres including comedy, factual, drama, entertainment and events. A partnership between eBay and ITV’s Love Island, to promote pre-loved fashion, led to over half of those aware of the partnership saying they had bought pre-loved clothing after watching the show, while Emmerdale has featured sustainable food systems.

In October, the BBC’s Frozen Planet II joined forces with EastEnders for a one-off version of the soap’s end credits, showing a flooded version of the iconic map of London’s East End to highlight the challenges associated with a warming climate and rising sea levels.

Sky has  launched a dedicated children’s animation with planet-saving alien Obki, which launched in 2021. Britain’s Poisoned Rivers, a new commission from Channel 5, will examine the crisis facing the UK’s waterways, and Channel 4’s award-winning Joe Lycett vs The Oil Giant took a closer look at Shell’s sustainability claims.

Behind the scenes, albert said changes are being made to weave sustainability requirements into the commissioning process, with many of the media brands making these considerations mandatory for editorial and the production itself. Dedicated training is being offered to commissioning staff on how best to feature climate change, along with tracking of issues in content to ensure teams learn from what works well.

Carys Taylor, director of albert, said: “We are excited to see the progress being made across the industry – and all genres. Although longer lead times for some programmes means there will be titles in the pipeline, the industry needs to go further and faster still. The most recent warnings from the UN make clear this action is urgent and our industry is crucial to enabling transformational change. albert is growing and developing support for the industry in making this crucial next step.”

“In the last year since the Pledge was signed, albert has worked closely with commissioning teams to embed sustainability at the very beginning of the production process, providing bespoke editorial training to over 1000 people since 2021, and launching a new Editorial Engagement Tool, freely available to help those working in TV and film, to help consider new ways to bring climate storytelling into their programmes,” Bafta explained. “It is also carrying out in-depth analysis of the impact of content on sustainable behaviour.”

Several signatories to the pledge have funded the first pan-broadcaster research, giving an overview of audience perceptions of climate change, their roles in tackling it and the hurdles faced by the television industry in helping inspire audiences to change their behaviour, and how best to do this.  albert will be sharing some emerging headlines from the research over the coming months.

Tim Davie, BBC Director-General said: “The industry must engage audiences on climate change in ways that are impactful and relevant.  We’ve made good progress together over the last year, but as the science demands we go further, we will be doing exactly that at the BBC.”

Alex Mahon, CEO at Channel 4 added: “The climate emergency is the most urgent challenge to humanity, and as broadcasters we have a responsibility to rise to it with programmes and content that demand accountability and inspire action.”

“As broadcasters we have a responsibility to use our voice and our platforms to impact change for good and helping to educate and inform our audiences on the climate emergency and environmental sustainability remains a key priority as we look to the future as Warner Bro, Discovery in the UK & Ireland, ” said Antonio Ruiz, general manager at Warner Bros. “We continue to review not only how we create our content using sustainable production processes but how we can further drive awareness through our editorial content having seen a positive response through our factual, lifestyle and sports programming to date.”

As part of the Pledge, programmes including ‘climate content’ are now reaching audiences,  and winning awards, across a wide range of genres including comedy, factual, drama, entertainment and events. A partnership between eBay and ITV’s Love Island, to promote pre-loved fashion, led to over half of those aware of the partnership saying they had bought pre-loved clothing after watching the show, while Emmerdale has featured sustainable food systems.

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