Solar Energy

TV dramas should show characters fighting climate crisis, says Sky

Nov 18, 2021 5:41PM

Dana, the Sky chief executive. Show caption Dana, the Sky chief executive, made trips between her home in Philadelphia and her office in the UK every few weeks. Photograph: Matt Crossick/PA
Television industry

Broadcaster, a main sponsor of Cop26 summit, defends Dana Strong’s former transatlantic commute

Sky has said broadcasters need to lead by example on the climate crisis – despite reports that its chief executive was regularly commuting by private jet from her home 3,500 miles away in the US.

Sky is one of the main sponsors of the Cop26 climate conference, and as part of an attempt to nudge the general public into taking action against global heating, the broadcaster said television dramas should feature more characters buying electric cars or ordering vegetarian options in restaurants.

However, it has emerged that Sky’s chief executive, Dana Strong, who was appointed in January, was making long-distance trips every few weeks on a private jet from her old base in Philadelphia until she moved to the UK in June, according to the Telegraph.

Strong lived close to the headquarters of Sky’s parent company, Comcast, which owns a fleet of corporate aircraft. A spokesperson for Sky defended the private jet commute to the publication, saying: “Many CEOs leading multinational companies have schedules that mean it is appropriate to use different modes of transport.”

They added: “It is critical to counterbalance this, that is why we offset carbon emissions caused by the business travel of Sky employees.”

Sky said the company had reduced its carbon footprint by 23% since 2018 and Strong’s travel arrangements were affected by the pandemic as she was unable to move her family to the UK in her first six months as CEO. “During this time she balanced visiting her family when her schedule allowed with running the business,” it said.

The chief executive’s regular use of a private jet is embarrassing for the company, given that Strong will present guidelines on how the television industry can help change the public’s behaviour on green issues at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.

Sky hired the behavioural insights team, originally founded as the government’s “nudge unit”, to develop suggestions on how the television industry could help change the public’s behaviour using small encouragements.

Their conclusions, shared with the Guardian and which are due to be unveiled by Strong on Monday, propose a series of incidental tweaks to television output – whether it is drama, children’s programming or news bulletins – to change the public’s actions.

Ironically, one of the report’s findings is that “such activities will be perceived as more legitimate if broadcasters are seen to lead by example”.

The behavioural insights team concluded that viewers were put off “fear-mongering, guilt-tripping, blaming or preaching” and often felt overwhelmed and unable to do anything to help the environment. As a result they recommend television producers put successful individual human actions at the centre of programmes, such as people choosing to take fewer flights.

Sky’s guidelines also propose using trusted news presenters to emphasise the importance of the climate crisis, having a consistent message about the need for action on the environment and using the power of large television audiences to put pressure on politicians to act.

Some climate activists disagree over whether small changes by large numbers of individuals are enough to halt the onset of global heating. Many are instead emphasising the role played by a small number of enormous corporations and governments in polluting the world.

However, the behavioural insights team said over-emphasising looming devastation without offering hope to the public risked “alienating the audience” and causing people to nihilistically double down on existing behaviour.

They also warn that clumsy, forced environmental storylines can turn off audiences if they make programmes boring, and that the public will not trust television companies that do not also cut their own emissions.












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Mary Brennan