The TV industry is cleaning up its act with the help of Albert
Given the competitive nature of the television industry it’s perhaps hard to imagine our biggest broadcasters and independent production companies coming together to discuss how they can work together on a project that might just change the entire industry. But for the past year, eleven of some of the biggest companies in the industry have been meeting once a month to do just that – all in the name of saving the planet.
It’ll come as no surprise to hear that the TV industry is not particularly environmentally friendly; on-set diesel generators, powerful lights, flights abroad to film in far-flung places, big production offices and military-style catering operations to feed a hungry cast and crew. It all adds up to a pretty large carbon footprint. What might surprise you though is that this is an industry that is pro-actively trying to do something about it.
The idea was born at the BBC; they wanted to reduce their production carbon footprint but immediately came across their first issue: how can you go about reducing something that you can’t even measure? Cue Albert, a carbon calculator developed in-house at the BBC that was developed exclusively to measure the carbon footprint of a production. Following a year of in-house foot printing, the BBC approached BAFTA to ask if they would help push the calculator to the wider industry.
A consortium came together (comprising BBC, TwoFour, BskyB, Channel 4, ITV, Endemol, Shine, Kudos, All 3 Media, Boundless, IMG): each putting money and time into the project and each bringing their own experiences of the challenges of trying to make great TV without damaging the planet. It’s a massive challenge but these companies all wanted to do something about it.
Casually mention the idea of foot printing a TV programme to an overworked production manager and the initial reaction can be for them to go quiet and immediately start pondering the sheer amount of data that would need to be captured. This is usually followed by a troubled expression and the question, ‘where the hell do you start?’ Thankfully, Albert was designed to be as user friendly as possible. It asks just 25 questions in a handful of key areas: production office, studios and stages, overnight accommodation, travel, location work, post production and soon, waste and materials.
Users submit information under these sections and Albert does the maths to work out the total carbon footprint. A leading carbon specialist has provided a lot of the data that makes Albert work. The more specialist numbers – the typical energy usage in an edit suite, for example – came from BBC engineers getting down and dirty with electricity meters in Television Centre. All the numbers are updated annually allowing us to produce data that is as robust as possible.
We’re just about to release our first set of numbers on how much carbon the TV industry as a whole is producing per production hour. The BBC put out its own attempt at such a figure last year – suggesting 8.2 tonnes of CO2 is emitted during the course of making one typical hour of TV. This is in the region of the total emissions you would expect from one UK citizen every year. Incidentally this is also enough carbon dioxide to fill over 40 double decker buses.
But of course Albert is not a magic wand that will cut the carbon for you. Footprinting a programme is only the first step on the sustainability road map. It’s what we do with that data that counts. Many programme makers are now beginning to take practical steps to reduce their footprint.
BBC Children’s programme The Rhyme Rocket made changes in some key areas of the production process in order to reduce their overall footprint. From the initial meetings it was agreed that they would aim to make The Rhyme Rocket a ‘green’ production and cast and crew were all notified on this decision.
Tungsten lights on set were replaced for their low energy equivalent, cast and crew travelled together and when possible took the train. When filming took place in Northern Ireland they hired a local crew rather than flying people over. Meetings happened via conference calls to reduce the need to travel and because it was all recorded locally the team were able to make use of the BBC canteen rather than having to hire in caterers.
The upshot of these changes meant their footprint came in at 7.7 tonnes of carbon per production hour, which is a little lower than the BBC’s average. Just as importantly in a climate of ever-tightening budgets, this change to the working method meant the production saved itself money without having to compromise on quality.
The Albert partnership celebrates its second birthday in November at which point we’ll have over 700 footprints in progress from across the industry. It’s a great start but we know there’s a very long way to go if we want to have a meaningful and positive impact on the environment.
Our aims are simple but powerful; we want to see every production company in the UK (and then beyond) actively signing up and using Albert. With everyone on board we hope we can work with the industry to help production companies adopt new methods for programme making which will positively impact the environment without negatively impacting on the creative process.
BAFTA is hosting ‘Greening the Screen’: A Sustainable Future for Film, Television and Games on Monday 12 November 9am-12pm. For more information click here
To sign up to Albert or find out more click hereTagged in: Albert, bbc, BskyB, carbon footprint, channel 4, Endemol, environment, itv, Kudos, Shine, television, TwoFour
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