BBC boss: Climate change no longer 'politically controversial issue'

BBC boss Tim Davie says climate change is no longer a ‘politically controversial issue’ as he signs pledge to increase broadcaster’s climate coverage

  • BBC director-general said climate change is no longer ‘politically controversial’
  • Tim Davie made the comment while speaking at a panel coinciding with Cop26
  • Follows 12 of UK’s media brands agreed to increase quantity and quality of climate change coverage
  • Davie added that this new pledge would not affect the BBC’s impartiality 

The director-general of the BBC has said climate change is no longer a ‘politically controversial’ issue.

Tim Davie made the comment while speaking as part of a panel that coincided with Cop26. 

He said: ‘The overwhelming consensus is that we, as humanity, are causing global warming. There are voices on the fringes but, in my view, when it comes to due impartiality for the BBC, we are now at a point where we have consensus around that.

‘But then you do get into political debate around policy, speed of change, the social consequences – there is tough stuff to debate and we will do that as the BBC.’

While speaking as part of a panel coinciding with Cop26, the director-general of the BBC Tim Davie (pictured on September 16, 2021) said climate change is no longer a ‘politically controversial’ issue

It follows 12 of the UK’s major media brands agreed to increase the amount and improve the quality of their climate change storytelling across drama, comedy and daytime programming.

And Davie added that the pledge to increase climate change coverage does not impact on the BBC’s impartiality.  

His comments came as media chiefs also warned broadcasters face becoming irrelevant to audiences if they fail to act on climate change.

Senior figures from the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky and STV urged their competitors to create more content reflecting the realities of climate change during a panel coinciding with Cop26. 

Simon Pitts, chief executive of STV, said there is a ‘commercial imperative’ for broadcasters to make changes now.

He told the panel: ‘In a couple of generations, when they look back not just on Covid but what we are doing now, we are not going to be judged on whether we managed to hit our quarterly targets and profit numbers – it is if we stepped up and did the right thing.

‘This isn’t pure altruism, it is a commercial imperative for us. If we don’t do all the things we are discussing, we won’t be relevant to our audiences and, crucially, to our people.’

Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon said there is a ‘collective responsibility on us as CEOs because we are in a position of power, because we have the ability to put things in the media that influence consumer behaviour’.

Simon Pitts (pictured in 2018), chief executive of STV, said there is a ‘commercial imperative’ for broadcasters to make changes now to improve the quantity and quality of climate change coverage

She added: ‘You hear that in different ways from all of us. We have to look at the facts and what our responsibilities are as running businesses.

‘But we are running particular businesses – so now we have cleaned up our own organisations over 10 years, as you have heard, the question is now “What can we do to influence the behaviour of the population?” Because we have the ability to do that.

‘We have to do it in the right way, in a way that is not lecturing or hectoring, but we can do that in a way that makes massive, massive impact on the UK.’ 

Dame Carolyn McCall, chief executive of ITV, said UK broadcasters can also influence their foreign commercial partners through their programmes.

During the panel, Davie also said that the pledge to increase climate change coverage does not impact on the BBC’s impartiality

‘We are talking very much about the UK here, and that is right. But there is a point here that is all of our content travels and so we can have a influence worldwide,’ she said.

The signatories to the pledge – who also include Britbox, Discovery and RTE – represent more than 70% of the time UK audiences spend watching TV and film.

The pledge was brought together by Albert, the screen industry organisation for environmental sustainability, and is being launched to coincide with the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.

However, the companies have not set measurable targets and will announce their own commitments in the coming year.

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