Along with emphases on diversity and inclusion, an increasing number of broadcast technology innovators perceive sustainability as a fundamental aspect of progressive business development, writes David Davies.

The need for organisations across M&E to address historic failings in terms of diversity and inclusion (D&I) has become increasingly salient during the last decade. Whilst the global spotlight has inevitably tended to be on the situation within the large content creators, there has also been a recognition within many media technology companies that a comparable pathway must be identified as a priority.

Mediaproxy LogPlayer_05

Mediaproxy Log Player

For the more forward-looking enterprises, D&I is being pursued as part of a broader progressive strategy that, for instance, also recognises that the way businesses operate has to change for environmental reasons.

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All of the key vectors have aligned

Giving substance to the notion that some of the companies engaged with the most cutting-edge areas of technology are among those embracing sustainability goals most fervently is Moments Lab. Formerly known as Newsbridge, the company recently rebranded to better encompass its vision and mission, which it describes as “harnessing the power of multimodal and generative AI to eliminate sourcing roadblocks for content teams worldwide, empowering them to preserve and find the key moments in media libraries to create impactful stories, at scale.”


Philippe Petitpont, Moments Lab

Whilst there is understandable excitement about the future of Moments Lab’s “deep-tech R&D”, it’s clear that the company – which is led by CEO and Co-Founder Philippe Petitpont – is acutely aware of the carbon impact of the digital economy as a whole, and of video in particular. In a March 2023 blog, Petitpont points to data that shows “video represents 82% of internet traffic, and the volume of data stored in data centres is experiencing hyper-growth of 40% per year.”

As a SaaS company, many of Moments Lab’s applications run in or from the cloud, with customers using the company’s cloud-native AI-driven technology as a media hub platform for live and archived content – removing the need for them to have a storage solution on-premise. Aware that calculating cloud carbon footprint is hardly straightforward, the company has been developing a “bottom-up evaluation” capacity that encompasses “leaning on the sustainability community, using some open source work, and building our own methodology to fill the gaps.”

More recently, the company has reported the first data from its sustainability research and revealed that it is “building out a sustainability pact to drive future business decisions”. Key aspects include Moments Lab conforming to Net Zero Initiative recommendations to contribute to global carbon neutrality; setting ambitious and SBTi (Science Based Targets initiative) compatible objectives to reduce value chain emissions (Scope 3); and contributing to raising awareness among our value chain and encouraging its decarbonisation. Meanwhile, company employees are now largely operating fully remotely or in “hybrid remote” mode, with only occasional in-person meetings and constant scrutiny of the carbon impact of work-related travel.

Speaking to IBC 365, Petitpont – who also points to a strong emphasis on implementing women and family-friendly policies at the company – reveals that previous career experiences highlighted “some stuff we wanted to [bring into our new business] and some that we didn’t, plus we all have strong personal values around democracy, creativity and social responsibility.” Simultaneously, a changing investment landscape in which sustainability requirements are increasingly to the fore at banking and venture capital organisations has also had an impact on the technology sector: “Ultimately, all of these vectors have aligned to create a company where there is a culture that is very much focused on making things better in terms of sustainability, diversity and inclusion.”

Change starts at the top

For Erik Otto, CEO of broadcast compliance, logging, monitoring and analysis specialist Mediaproxy, the directive to implement decarbonisation has to start at the top of any organisation. “It has to come from the leadership,” he confirms, “and in fact, if [more company leaders] had had the attitude of being more sustainable earlier, then I think we could be quite a lot further along the curve [as an industry].” Nonetheless, he does note that green impact has been an aspect of some RFPs for well over a decade, and suggests that the arrival of “energy consumption in terms of lifespan” as being a priority customer consideration can also be dated to around 2011.

Erik Otto Mediaproxy

Erik Otto, Mediaproxy

In the same way that the benefits of building a diverse workforce are evident, Otto implies that minimising the environmental impact of a company is really a no-brainer. And like Petitpont, he is aware that the pivot to the cloud constitutes a momentous juncture in the decarbonising of broadcast and media. In particular, he highlights the danger that “the cloud could be used as justification [by some operators] to say we’re becoming more frugal and aware of the problem, and have moved things outside our building [to improve their efficiency].” But with so many data centres under construction, and complex AI applications potentially heralding massive new processing requirements, there is a “significant” risk of the industry compounding its already considerable carbon footprint.

For Mediaproxy, which is a relatively small and nimble company in terms of employee count, it’s thankfully somewhat easier to keep track of energy consumption and implement meaningful sustainability strategies. Being a software-driven business certainly helps alleviate the impact, but the further reduction of work-related travel is among several ongoing priorities: “It’s something that we are always keeping an eye on.”

Meanwhile, Otto indicates that the pursuit in many territories of a “more community-based approach” – something that doesn’t sound dissimilar to the much-discussed urban planning concept of 15 Minute Cities, whereby most daily necessities and services can be reached by a 15-minute walk, bike ride or public transportation journey from any point in a city – is also going to be beneficial. Focusing on Mediaproxy’s home country of Australia, he says “We’re starting to tick over the magic threshold of being able to say, ‘Look, in my suburb the infrastructure is growing, I’ve got my own shops, schools and healthcare, and so I don’t need to drive to the other side of town anymore.’” In conjunction with the country’s huge renewables potential – “if ever there was a country where solar works, it’s here!” – and it’s clear why Otto believes there is capacity for “a great deal of progress to be made on sustainability [across the board], and pretty quickly, too.”

This all points to a highly pragmatic philosophy that recognises the importance of change on both macro and micro levels. Indeed, the importance of engagement on an individual level is arguably underestimated by society at large: “I think it’s important to read as much as you can, and I’ve always been a big fan of trying to solve the problems of the world! It can be pretty hard to [come up with solutions], but it’s accurate to say that the more people who try, the greater hope we all have.”

Culture and capability

Another organisation that is certainly always on the lookout for solutions is albert, the film and TV environmental organisation that has been parented by BAFTA since its early years. Having initially made its mark with a bespoke carbon calculator that allows a production to calculate its predicted carbon footprint from pre- to post-production – an approach that now has 10,000+ global users including numerous broadcasters and streamers such as the BBC, Sky and Netflix – albert has subsequently introduced several groundbreaking initiatives, including a certification programme that allows productions to highlight their decarbonisation efforts by securing a 1, 2 or 3-star certificate.

BAFTA has a clearly defined set of D&I policies that include a stated objective of broadening access to opportunities, encouraging the industry to “coalesce behind effective change”, and collaborate with industry partners who are also seeking a more inclusive industry – to which albert also ascribes.

Matt Scarff, who was recently appointed as permanent CEO of Albert, tells IBC 365: “One of the biggest drivers for change is culture and capability, which is why albert’s events and training are available for free to anyone within the industry. For example, the recent Aim Hi Earth Masterclass hosted by albert ensured that over 1,000 people across the TV and film industry were able to learn the basic science underpinning climate change for free.”

Making information and guidance accessible to all is critical. “Climate change disproportionately impacts the most marginalised in society and therefore it is right to acknowledge that D&I and sustainability are intrinsically linked,” notes Scarff. “As an organisation that is working towards creating a net zero society, albert is proactive in providing free training and tools to anyone within the industry who wants to make a positive change. [Moreover], in the work albert does on climate content, we are advocating for change, bringing the stories and experiences of those disproportionately impacted by climate change to the screens of people across the world through compelling storytelling across all genres.”

Meanwhile, the underlying mechanisms of the organisation continue to be refined. A comprehensive review of albert’s activities during 2023 resulted in a new “climate action blueprint focused on the highest-impact areas”, including energy, travel, materials, waste and biodiversity. Scarff also believes this will help strengthen engagement with both the industry and the public, noting that despite the “really ambitious nature of the strategy it’s also very simple” – something that is bound to be beneficial with the rate of change in the sustainability sector as a whole remaining so heightened.

Whether aligned with albert’s schemes or other national and international initiatives, many companies now perceive sustainability as a critical component of a truly forward-looking strategy. And although individual rates of development will vary, it’s increasingly rare now to encounter an organisation in film and TV that still doesn’t grasp the scale of the challenge – or the acute need for meaningful change.

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