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Cats trump climate change for Britain’s storytellers, report shows

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Over a year’s worth of broadcasting, the phrase clean energy’ only showed up 136 times

Britain’s entertainment industry spends more time focused on picnics, gravy and cats than climate change

For Britain’s entertainment industry, the existential threat climate change poses matters – but not as much as cats, picnics, gravy, and cake.

This is the conclusion of a new report released this week analysing coverage of environmental themes in a year’s worth of TV programming, published today by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) in collaboration Deloitte and Bafta’s sustainability affiliate albert.

Researchers sifted through subtitling data for 40 channels and more than 120,000 distinct shows. They found that climate change was mentioned a total of just 3,125 times.

In contrast, the word picnic came up 5,949 times, cats were discussed on more than 14,000 occasions, cake over 46,000 – and Brexit almost 70,000 times.

The research – which excluded news programmes – analysed a range of key issues related to the climate emergency. It searched for climate-relevant terms in five key topic areas: food, resources, travel, energy and climate knowledge. It was then able to compare the frequency with which each theme arose with the relative importance of the topic in the context of our overall carbon footprint.

For example, words associated with ‘energy’ were mentioned in the context of climate change only six per cent of the time, even though energy represents the biggest part of the average person’s carbon footprint at 24 per cent. Renewables was the most common energy-common word, mentioned 391 times, while solar power showed up 193 times and wind power just 180.

Words such as ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’ were much more common, appearing around 3,000 times each, but food only accounts for 12 per cent of an individual’s carbon footprint, half that of energy.

The report also notes a tendency to focus on problems rather than solutions. While global warming was mentioned 799 times, and food waste 546 times, the phrase ‘clean energy’ only showed up on 136 occasions – while carbon offset featured a grand total of 11 times.

“The TV industry’s call to address climate change is clear,” said Pippa Harris, chair at BAFTA. “Reducing our impact is a given, but our real opportunity lies in the programmes we make, and in our ability to use powerful human stories to connect audiences with the world around them. Though it may seem that our future has been taken from us, history is still being created. It is time to write a different script and share it with the world.”

The research was carried out by Deloitte, which analysed programmes from four broadcasters – BBC, Sky, ITV and Channel 4 – between September 2017 and September 2018. The report’s release is timed to coincide with the launch of Planet Placement, a new guide designed by albert to encourage those working in the entertainment industry to weave sustainability messages into their screen content.

“To help shape society’s response to climate change we cannot rely solely on the current affairs and natural history programmes, we must think creatively and look for other ways to bring sustainability messages to our screens that are both optimistic and inspirational,” said Aaron Matthews, head of industry sustainability at albert. “We are setting up free training sessions for anyone working in the industry, across all genres, so we can begin to explore what a creative response to climate change could look like.”

Source: – Business Green
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