Sustainability is undoubtedly one of the hot topics in broadcast and streaming, a fact that an expert panel navigated spectacularly with a robust and well-informed discussion, writes Mark Mayne.

While few would argue the necessity of sustainable practices in broadcast and media, the reality is much more nuanced and complex, while also unifying from an industry standpoint, concluded an expert webinar panel. The IBC webinar topic, Driving measurable sustainability in broadcast and streaming, attracted a large viewer audience, as the broadcaster panel set out some of the methods, strategies and challenges around sustainability in 2023.


IBC Webinar: Driving measurable sustainability in broadcast and streaming

Quantifying energy consumption

A central question - unsurprisingly given current energy costs - was around energy consumption and how this impacts on procurement and supply chain provision. James Tatam, Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Content & Studios, and Sustainability Co-Lead, Paramount UK felt that this will soon be a key metric for businesses when procuring products and services. “I think it is something that’s coming. It’s a mechanic built into the science based targets initiative, where one of the commitments you can make is to say that X percent of your supply base will also be science based targets signed up.

“Once you make that commitment, you’re going to have to make better choices around which suppliers you engage with and which you don’t, because you put it out there. You are going to ensure that the vast majority of your supply base - the scope three emissions - is itself going to be science based targets. So I think that’s where, certainly from where I’m sitting, that’s where that sort of becomes that binary…”

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Eileen Duggan, Sustainability and Environment Services Manager, RTÉ agreed, also making the point that public broadcasters have additional requirements due to additional oversight. “Green public procurement has been implemented in Ireland, it’s the green public procurement Program, and it’s coming down the line. It really is going to make a big impact - things like lifecycle costing will become a big issue, and when tenders are being done all of the sustainability issues really will weed out things.”

Duggan continued to make clear the transformational aspect of sustainability in supply chain procurement decisions: “I think it will evolve, I think organisations who are in pursuit of reducing their scope three and are reviewing their supply chain, they’re going to have to make those hard decisions. There are going to be enough companies out there who are going to be taking sustainability seriously enough. This will eliminate the outliers, the ones who are not playing ball. Sustainability is extremely complicated, because it pulls us all together.”

8K and UHD: Down to the data

An audience question around 8K also threw up some interesting perspectives: “I liked the comment about following the activities of suppliers so in that case I want to learn how broadcasters are able to understand from a measurement perspective the energy consumption of the new generation of 8K TVs - are broadcasters producing 8K content before they are sure with the energy measurements of 8K TVs…?”

Matthew Price, ITV, Controller of Transformation and Green Lead for Technology took a very data-led approach. “I think part of this comes back to the data quality. When we model our supply chain, that’s where we see the impact, [and] we need the data as we have to fully understand, then we can start to influence that change. There is a wider conversation around this, to have the conversation with the TV manufacturers and device manufacturers, and we can see what the impact of these changes is having. If you’re enforcing HDR on people when they’re watching content, this is how the consumption numbers [change]. I think it does come back to improving that quality of measurement, so you’ve got the basis of the numbers and the facts to be able to have those conversations with the right people.”

Duggan also highlighted the increasingly vast range of devices being used to consume content at a wide range of resolutions and connection capabilities: “From a television perspective, there’s been research that shows many people who are watching programs are not watching them on televisions, and I think that has begged the question as to what type of definition is necessary. This is why it’s so important that the industry is talking to each other and the question is so important, because it is an area that needs to be considered.”

The circular economy

The concept of sustainability in lifecycle terms also cropped up, as Tatam summarised: “I think responsible disposal of any kind of waste whether it’s electrical kit or otherwise, has got to be at the heart of a wider sustainability. We operate a zero landfill policy here at Paramount UK. We want to avoid anything ending up in landfill.”

Duggan was keen to emphasise a collaborative, holistic approach: “There are things that we can do as organisations, for example, I know our caterer is making sure that the suppliers of their vegetables and products take their packaging back and transform it back again into containers again, so there’s a circular impact there. The biggest impact is going to be in the industry, when products have been used and that product goes back to the supplier who then makes it usable again. There’s a huge amount happening in that space.”

She continued to move on to the economic life cycle of products and services: “I think lifecycle costing is extremely important in the context of sustainability. It has been factored into green public procurement.”

Tatam agreed: “It’s kind of a holy grail. That is what we want across the board, ultimately whether it’s pieces of electronics or anything else we want to know what the lifecycle emissions are. Only then can we really understand the consequences of the decisions we might make in choosing a certain product type or another. So any data there is helpful, definitely.”

Top tips for sustainability in broadcast

In closing thoughts, a few pithy words of wisdom from each member of the panel made for serious food for thought. Duggan: “Anything [sustainable] we do as a business is multiplied by ten. In terms of sustainability in the round, don’t be intimidated by it and make sure you’ve got leadership from the top of your organisation.”

“Don’t let the perfect get in the way of good - just make a start”, said Tatam. Price meanwhile advocated harnessing people power: “People are passionate about this, you cannot solve this if you sit in the corner and try on your own account, but if you shout out the amount of uptake you get from the industry and within your company is huge, so use that…”

Catch the full webinar, Driving measurable sustainability in broadcast and streaming, on demand now, and get the full range of insights from the expert panel. Alternatively, check out the full on-demand IBC webinar catalogue and/or register for any upcoming IBC2023 webinar topics that appeal.

Read more IBC365’s 2023 webinar programme