Cop 26: BBC, ITV, C4, Sky Debate ‘Collective Responsibility’ On Climate Change

Planet Earth: A Celebration
BBC1's Planet Earth: A Celebration BBC Studios/BBC America

The big UK networks can use their different programming strengths to reach audiences with the same climate change message, according to the bosses of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky.

Speaking during a panel session at today’s Cop 26, C4 CEO Alex Mahon said that, having “cleaned up our organisations” over the past decade in terms of sustainability, the networks now have a “collective responsibility to influence the behaviour of the population.”

“We can all do it in our own way,” she added. “Channel 4’sĀ Celebrity Trash Monsters recently did a climate challenge while ITV has power through soaps or quizzes. The onus is on us to get the messages agreed upon out there.”

Sky UK and Europe CEO Stephen van Rooyen said the networks can use their different strengths to “nudge audiences along,” pointing to the Comcast-owned pay-TV giant’s expertise in the sports arena as another example.

The group, which also included BBC Director General Tim Davie, ITV CEO Carolyn McCall and Scottish network STV CEO Simon Pitts, were speaking on the day 12 UK broadcasters, pay-TV operations and streamers signed up to a six-point Climate Content Pledge.

McCall said the “base principle is building [sustainability] into our commissioning and production processes,” with some “pockets” of the production sector ahead of others in the area.

“We need to create a forum to make sure this is normal for the people making the content,” she added.

Davie shrugged off concerns that the BBC may be seen as failing to be impartial if it promotes climate change messages, coming a few days after he made his second major impartiality intervention in the past year.

“There are voices on the fringes but the overwhelming consensus is that humanity is causing global warming,” he added. “When it comes to impartiality we have that consensus and now need to get into debates about things like policy and speed of change. This won’t stop flavoursome programming and lots of debate.”


McCall said there is “anxiety” from “overwhelmed” audiences when they see flooding in areas such as Brazil or Germany on the news.

“People don’t quite know what to do about it,” she said. “We need to question how we as broadcasters can give normal people the ability to feel they can control things so they are contributing to the greater good.”

And according to Pitts, the pressure is also now coming from above as well as audiences.

He said one of the three main questions he gets from shareholders concerns action being taken on climate change.

“There is clearly a commercial imperative here,” he added. “If we don’t do all the things we’ve been discussing we won’t be relevant to our audiences.”

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