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Sustainability : How broadcasters can lead the way towards net zero

author
Stephen Amor
Head of Global Technical Specialists

Broadcasters are not typically organisations that own factories or mines. But they do hold one resource that is just as critical to the sustainability of our planet: Their audiences’ attention.

Viewers look to broadcasters to lead by example in the march towards net zero, and that means it’s more important than ever that we reduce the climate impact of our activities, and work more sustainably.

Over the last decade or so, our industry has made great progress. The creation of BAFTA’s albert scheme in 2011 has set the gold standard for sustainability. And today, we regularly see the albert logo in the credits of many shows, worn as a badge of honour.

But there’s still so much more that we as a media and broadcast industry can do collectively - and we need to do it. That’s why at BT we’ve committed to reaching Net Zero for our own operations by March 2031, and we’re already using renewable electricity to power our networks.

We believe our industry should embrace this challenge. Not just for the good of the planet, and not just because audiences demand it of us, but because it’s good business.

Why? Requests for Proposals come with detailed sustainability requirements, and sustainable practices are demanded from the camera all the way through the broadcast chain to the viewer. So, if we want to win the best contracts and work with the best people, we need to collectively up our game.

The way to do this is to not just spend more money. In fact, being more sustainable can actually save money. Take remote production for example, which eliminates the need for travel - saving time, resources, costs, and carbon emissions, without compromising on quality.

Sustainability shouldn’t be seen as a drain on compliance, but an opportunity for growth. It opens the door to new innovations that allow us to do things in new ways, and drive positive change - for a more resilient, greener future.

If we want our industry to be more sustainable, we need to start thinking smarter and working closer together.

Broadening the scope

Before our industry can measure how well it's doing, we need to know what we’re measuring and how we’re counting - and this is something we lack cross-industry agreements on.

For example, if we use the Greenhouse Gas Protocol as a model, it describes CO2 from company vehicles as “Scope 1” emissions, which are emissions created directly by organisations through actions such as running heating and cooling systems and fuelling company vehicles. These are relatively easy to measure, and to replace, now that electric vehicles are increasingly common on the road and in our industry.

Then there’s “Scope 2” - indirect emissions from the purchase and use of energy used by companies. Again, most companies are already working hard to reduce energy usage and decarbonise what they can’t using microgeneration technology like solar and battery storage. As a last resort, carbon-offsetting can be used here too.

The next step though, “Scope 3” - which is all other indirect emissions not produced by the company itself, but by those that it’s indirectly responsible for up and down the entire broadcast supply chain - is much trickier. 

The challenge for broadcasters is figuring out how to measure these sorts of emissions for our industry, at a “product” level. For example, how can we measure the impact of an individual production, and how should we account for data-centres that stream our content, and the millions of TV sets that power-on to watch our programming?

Getting the data right

Essentially, the challenge is one of data. We can only compare our performance with our peers if we agree on what it is we’re actually comparing. And there are already many variations in sustainability standards and models across the wider industry.

What we need to get better at is collaboration, with both our partners and our competitors, so that we’re all working using common metrics. Such as those used by the DPP accreditation scheme to measure our commitment and progress towards sustainability.

Transparency will also be critical in achieving this. We should aim to reach a point as an industry where the methodologies we use to make, for example, emissions calculations, are shared out in the open, building on the work of initiatives like CDP (the Carbon Disclosure Project). That way, we can be confident that the industry is moving in the right direction and that we’re all working to the same benchmarks. If we can learn from how our industry peers are working, we can more effectively achieve our sustainability goals.

This is a big challenge for our industry. But it’s one that we believe the industry can rise to. And the proof of this is the success of the albert scheme at driving so much change over the last decade. What we need to do now is double-down and expand the scope of this collaboration – so that we can continue serving our audiences, while remaining sustainable at the same time. So let’s work together.

If you’d like to talk about sustainability in your technology infrastructure, get in touch with BT Media and Broadcast today.

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