Market sports a shade of green

Environmental issues front and center for b'casters

Environmental programming has exploded onto the mainstream agenda at MIPTV, with debate about the role of the industry in campaigning for environmental issues engaging programmers, distributors and broadcasters alike.

In recent years, talk at the Riviera sales market has focused on changing distribution platforms and new mobile and broadband opportunities. But this year, the extent to which concerns about global warming have spilled over into mainstream entertainment was evident in the way panels, programming events, awards and program launches locked onto the issue.

"Until about two years ago there was very little about global warming or the environment that could get a commissioning editor or channel controller interested in giving it an hour in primetime," said BBC science and natural history executive producer Phil Dolling, speaking at a panel on "Can Green TV Be Primetime TV?"

"But that has significantly changed. … This is a subject that is of such overwhelming importance that broadcasters are basically involved," he added, cautioning that relentless focus on the negative aspects of environmental research could eventually alienate viewers.

MIP organizers are hosting the first Green World Award, which will be given to photographer Yann Arthus Bertrand at a gala tonight at the Carlton Hotel, while news conferences to launch a slew of green programming, including RDF Media's controversial documentary "The Great Global Warming Scandal," pepper the agenda for the market and confab that runs through Thursday.

The Sundance Channel unveiled elements of its three-hour weekly block "Sundance Green" at the market. The block launches today and will be a home to environmental themes, Sundance senior vp Lynne Kirby said. But, she added, the block will not be about forcing home an environmental message.

"Our approach is through entertainment," she said. "We didn't want to throw it down people's throats. It's not about saying, 'You suck, get rid of your SUV.' "

Content featured on the block will include eco-themed series "Big Ideas for a Small Planet."

Presenting "Oceans: Engines of Our Planet," "Lord of the Rings" executive producer Barrie Osborne noted that audiences need to be drawn into storytelling in order to maintain their interest in the genre amid concern that too much green-oriented programming could result in "issue fatigue."

Many executives cited global interest in the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" as kick-starting a renewed interest in the environment.

"We are seeing a huge international interest in environmental issues thanks to the Al Gore film," said Justyna Muench, acquisitions and sales executive at Germany's Telepool, which is handling most international territories on the award-winning Swiss documentary "A Crude Awaking: The Oil Crash."