BAFTA assembles UK's biggest news broadcasters for climate coalition

The BBC, Sky News and ITV News are among the first members of a new initiative designed to help the UK's news broadcasting sector minimise its environmental impact and engage viewers on topics like climate change.

Members will collaboratively contribute to a new standard carbon footprint measurement for newsrooms

Members will collaboratively contribute to a new standard carbon footprint measurement for newsrooms

Convened by BAFTA’s albert arm, the new ‘News Consortium’ will support broadcast and production teams across the sector to measure and minimise their organisations’ emissions, waste and water footprints. Staff will also be supported to “inspire sustainable futures through content”, changing narratives around pressing issues like climate change.

The overarching aim of the initiative is to create a certification for news programming specifically. BAFTA’s albert has already convened several major sports broadcasters to develop such a framework for this sub-sector, and hopes learnings can be transferred. The certification will be underpinned by a standard carbon footprint measurement for newsrooms.

“The challenges faced by the broadcast news community are quite unique when compared to those of our core Consortium members, not least because news producers have to react with a moment’s notice to breaking news and have to broadcast from all over the world,” albert’s special projects manager Michelle Whitehead said. “We wanted to create a separate group that could discuss the challenges they face and work on tailored solutions that can help them achieve net-zero carbon emissions.”

ITN, BBC, ITV News, Sky News and Channel 4 are the first members of the new initiative, with more names expected to be added in the future.

Many of the members already have their own sweeping sustainability targets. ITV is targeting net-zero by 2030 and has set science-based emissions targets to underpin the transition. Sky has set the same net-zero deadline, and its work on climate and plastics action led the COP26 presidency to name the broadcaster as its principal media partner. The BBC, meanwhile, is expected to outline a roadmap to net-zero by 2030 later this year.

“There has never been a more urgent need for our industry to report accurately and informatively on the climate crisis,” Sky News’ deputy head of newsgathering Sarah Whitehead said.

"The albert consortium provides a fantastic platform to share best practice among peers, including learnings from Sky's overall ambition to be net-zero carbon by 2030." 

Changing the narrative

Headlines in 2020 were dominated by Covid-19. But if you ask any sustainability professional to name the defining stories of 2019, they will likely be related to climate strikes and Greta Thunberg.

Despite this perception, past research from Deloitte has shown that climate issues are not getting are much airtime in the UK as many of us think. After analysing news and chat shows from a 12-month period starting in 2018, it found that 25 environment-related topics collectively received less airtime than talk about cake or beer.

The study also found a tendency to talk about problems more than solutions. Presenters rarely mentioned the technologies, processes and systems needed in the low-carbon transition directly, with terms like “wind power” and “electric car” all clocking up less than 1,900 mentions. In comparison, dogs got more than 100,000 mentions, and tea more than 60,000 mentions.

BAFTA’s albert arm, therefore, takes a two-pronged approach. As well as helping companies to minimise their own footprint, it hopes to change narratives – not just for news broadcasting, but in soaps, dramas, reality shows, sports and more.

Sarah George



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