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PROTECTING THE CLIMATE AND BIODIVERSITYCLIMATE CHANGE AND BIODIVERSITY: WHAT DOES TELEVISION SHOW – WHAT DO VIEWERS WANT? The climate and biodiversity crisis is the central issue of our time, if not of our century. Recognition that the crisis is dramatic and real is widely documented, and it has been established in public discourse across generations and national borders. The media can offer support and play an important role in facing the challenges before us by providing information, context, and solutions. Together with the four major TV broadcasting groups, the MaLisa Foundation has initiated a study on the representation and reception of climate change and biodiversity on television. The foundation is thus expanding its field of activity to include climate and species protection. Share Twittern Together with ARD, ZDF, ProSiebenSat.1 and RTL Deutschland, the MaLisa Foundation initiated and funded the study "Climate change and Biodiversity: What does television show - what do viewers want?". It was conducted under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Irene Neverla, FU Berlin, and Prof. Dr. Imke Hoppe, LMU Munich, in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT, and it provides insights into how these topics are represented in German television programs and how they are received by the audience. The program analysis is primarily based on an automated examination of German television programs with regard to the topics of climate and biodiversity. The programs on 20 German television stations were examined in the period September 1, 2022 – October 31, 2022 (19h/day). The reception study comprises an online representative survey of the population in Germany to gain a general overview of perspectives and expectations, as well as a qualitative survey using in-depth interviews and group discussions. The aim was to conduct a communication science study analyzing the presence and representation of the topics of climate crisis and species extinction in television programs, as well as the interests and perspectives of the audience on these topics. KEY RESULTS Media preferences The results show that television is by far the most important medium when it comes to obtaining information about climate change. Almost half of those surveyed stated that they use television most frequently of all media when it comes to the subject of climate change. Perception of the subject in the media   Respondents perceive significantly higher presence of climate change than of biodiversity.   Of the 41% of respondents who perceive the topic of climate change to be present, 8% perceive it to be extremely present. In fact, the subject of climate change is only present in 1.8% of all airtime minutes in the analyzed television programs. 20% of respondents perceive the topic as not at all present or barely present, of which 5% perceive it as not present at all. Of the total of 18% who perceive the topic of biodiversity to be present, 4% perceive it to be extremely present. This stands in contrast with the actual share of 0.2% of all broadcast minutes devoted to the topic of biodiversity. 43% of respondents perceive the topic as not at all present or barely present, around a third of those as barely present. Biodiversity and the rapidly advancing extinction of species remain only marginally present on television and could be said to be barely visible. Viewers are aware that they lack information on these important topics. Almost 80% rate their own factual knowledge on species extinction as "not at all", "rather not", or "moderate". Only 4% of respondents perceive biodiversity to be extremely present on television, while around a third perceive the topic to be barely present. Climate change is perceived by 8% as extremely present and by 5% as not present at all.   Interest in the subject   At the same time, the results show that two thirds of respondents are partially to very interested in television reports on climate change - largely independent of gender, education or age group. 62% of respondents want climate change to be addressed more often on television in the future.   Gender & climate on television Men are almost twice as visible as women in television programming.   This is true for the total program analyzed, as well as for the categories “information” and “fiction”. This 2:1 gender ratio is also seen within the subject of climate change, although there are many prominent female climate activists and experts in Germany. Taken within the subject of climate change, the portion of women’s faces is 34%, which is even lower than in the total program.   Extreme weather events   Extreme weather and the reporting on it work together. This intensifies our perception of the scale and severity of the climate crisis. 65% of respondents stated that reporting on extreme weather events had changed their perception of climate change. 72% say that climate change is here and now, and that the reporting has made this clear. Solution-oriented approach In the debate within the journalism industry, solution orientation is often characterized by the following features: Focus on solutions, diversity, empowerment, contextualization of information and co-creation. In the field of journalism, these characteristics serve to provide a more concrete understanding of how solution-oriented journalism can be implemented. But do viewers also perceive these features as characteristic of solution-oriented journalism? Are these characteristics reflected in their perception? All five dimensions were tested using various questions. The results show that these dimensions are not directly reflected in the viewers' experience. Instead, the focus is on whether the reporting can offer an objectively convincing solution that shows, using facts, how more climate protection can succeed and provides and elaborates the truly important facts regarding the questions: “what now, what next”. It is furthermore decisive that the reporting can inspire confidence, i.e. enable a positive view of possible solutions.    Audience wishes for television programming   Almost half of those surveyed would like to see climate change and biodiversity featured more prominently in the main program, while around 40% would like to see a daily update.   GOOD PRACTICES, PERSPECTIVES AND POTENTIAL   The climate change and species extinction crises compound and reinforce one another. In public discourse, the rapidly advancing extinction of species, in which irreversible tipping points are being crossed day by day, has so far been largely ignored. It took four billion years for this biodiversity to emerge and take form. In contrast, it has taken less than two hundred years since the beginning of industrialization to put it in serious danger. Knowledge about the connections, correlations and options for action regarding the climate crisis and species extinction has never been greater. This knowledge and understanding creates enormous potential to identify and implement solutions. The media can make a major contribution to ensuring that this potential is realized. What potential and possibilities for program planning are available? How can (audiovisual) media cover these subjects in their full diversity, play a pioneering role, and offer people valuable support and orientation?   Climate as a dimension   One conceivable educational role for the media would be to quickly establish widespread fundamental knowledge about the climate crisis and species extinction, for example by integrating the topic into all departments. This would thus be an opportunity to promote and accelerate solutions. These issues could be addressed in all reporting, from high fashion to Formula 1. The Climate Journalism Network of Germany (Netzwerk Klimajounalismus) brings journalists together to discuss content and editorial issues. It advocates understanding all climate-related subjects as cross-sectional and to be included in all editorial departments: "The climate crisis is not a separate topic, but - like democracy and human rights - a dimension of every topic". To make climate visible and tangible as a dimension, journalist Sara Schurmann recommends "asking yourself two questions for each topic: 1) What influence does my topic have on the climate crisis? 2) And what influence does the climate crisis have on my topic?". The shift from department to dimension would also make it possible to advance and accelerate solutions in all editorial offices, i.e. to face the crises with systematic mainstreaming throughout the entire editorial program.      Creating space for the diverse perspectives and dimensions of the subjects   When it comes to climate and biodiversity, it is also important to take a differentiated view of the effects on different population groups, including different genders. Only then can practicable solutions be developed. Inequalities are exacerbated by crises. Women are in many ways more affected by the impact of the climate crisis, while at the same time, as actors, they are in many places the ones introducing and already implementing solutions. Nevertheless, women's expertise is often less heard and included in environmental policy solutions and decisions. Women are also less present in the media than men, and the gender-based dimensions of the crises are rarely examined.   Talking about climate and biodiversity constructively The results from group discussions of the study initiated by the MaLisa Foundation and its partners confirm the need for solutions and opportunities for action. There are many ways to be part of the solution.  A report on international climate journalism commissioned by the European Broadcasting Union confirms that constructive formats are effective. Media researchers Dr. Alexandra Borchardt, Katherine Dunn and Felix M. Simon interviewed numerous experts, media professionals and academics on the subject of climate communication. Their report presents formats, strategies and examples of good practice from around the world. The Constructive Journalism Lab at DW Akademie, for example, promotes this way of working. "It may be that talking is not enough. But that is how it starts," says Christoph Schrader in the German handbook on climate communication published by the Klimafakten editorial team. It answers questions such as "How can we get people talking about climate and biodiversity in a way that motivates them to act?” One focus is on the recommendation to bring facts to life through stories: "The 'right' stories can help consolidate information, recognize causes and effects and process data emotionally.... Stories release their full power when they are about people who are transitioning from an old life to a new one and overcoming challenges in the process." The „So geht’s“ ("How it works") section on Klimafakten offers good practices for climate communication. It also features guidelines and stakeholders.     Advanced training for media professionals   The time pressure is immense. Those who only report on specific events, such as climate disasters or species extinctions, have a lot of catching up to do when the crises reach the next major phase. Media professionals need resources to acquire specific expertise and specialist knowledge. These resources can be developed in-house and supplemented by external offerings. Departments can be expanded and climate departments established. Ideally, knowledge about climate change and biodiversity should be made available to media professionals in all departments. (Every story is a climate story.) Part-time training programs are offered for example by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) at the University of Oxford, supported by the European Climate Foundation (ECF). BBC Media Action also provides online courses with basics, background information and tips for media professionals. The editorial team of Klimafakten has also developed training formats on the role and function of journalism in the climate crisis, and specifically on the use of images.   The power of the media   In countless places and in countless projects and initiatives, people are getting involved in climate protection and species conservation. In doing so, they experience their own effectiveness and realize that it is possible to take action. Media professionals who focus on this diversity are counteracting the widespread perception that "the media" only spread negative news and thus foster frustration, fear and societal polarization. Media can fundamentally contribute to "initiating a more constructive approach, shifting away from helplessness and (news) avoidance and towards more empowerment and effective action." The Psychologists/Psychotherapists for Future provide tips and advice for media professionals from a psychological perspective in their "Media Guide to the Climate". A German guide to values-based climate communication has been prepared by Climate Outreachwith and More in Common Deutschland. It is available as an interactive online toolkit or as a PDF and builds on the English-language guide, Britain Talks Climate. The Science Media Center prepares briefings on up-to-date studies on the topic and provides expert opinions. The Clean Energy Wire CLEW supports journalists in their research and provides an international network and database of relevant institutions and experts in Europe. Quality journalism ensures that diverse perspectives and stories are represented. This is still not the case today: Men explain the world to us, even when it comes to crises. This is shown by two studies initiated by the MaLisa Foundation on gender distribution in coronavirus reporting on television and in print media online. In the television formats examined, only one in five experts was female (22%). (Who explains the crisis?) In an international context, a look at the expert database The Reuters Hotlist shows that 88 percent of the 1,000 experts listed are male. In the Global South Climate Databases, which includes over 1,000 experts from over 100 countries and 75 languages, the proportion of people listed with the pronouns she/her is 36 percent (as of October 2023). Initiatives such as the BBC 50:50 Project, in which many German broadcasters are now also involved, can help media houses to achieve a more balanced gender ratio in the selection of experts.   Climate and biodiversity: fiction as opportunity   Every crisis is in part a storytelling crisis. If you win the popular imagination, you can change the game.” (Rebecca Solnit)   Can good stories help save the planet? Films and series can help shape our understanding of the world and mobilize us to take action. What perspectives on climate change and biodiversity are conveyed in films and series? To what extent does fictional content offer major opportunities, and what are good practices in this field? According to the new study "Climate Change and Biodiversity: What does television show - what do viewers want?", the relative share of programs featuring climate change in the fictional entertainment category is a negligible 0.6%. These results match the findings of a large-scale study conducted in the USA in 2022. The Media Impact Project (MIP) of the USC Norman Lear Center carried out the research project with the support of Good Energy, a storytelling consultancy specializing in climate change. It examined how frequently 36 climate change-related keywords were mentioned in 37,453 scripted TV episodes and films from 2016-2020. 2.8% of all scripts contained climate-related keywords and only 0.6% of screenplays mentioned the term "climate change". At the same time, 50% of audiences wanted more climate-related storylines in film and television, and many do not see their concerns reflected in the characters on screen. Several initiatives are working to counteract this absence and at the same time promote sustainable production. In the USA, for example, the Good Energy Playbook for Screenwriting in the Age of Climate Change was published for screenwriters and creative professionals in the film industry. We are Albert supports filmmakers in the UK specifically in the implementation of sustainable shoots and productions. At the same time, the initiative, which was founded by BAFTA, promotes stories dedicated to the topics of climate change or biodiversity. A lot has been achieved since the organization was founded in 2011. In 2021, twelve British TV networks and streaming providers signed the Climate Content Pledge launched by Albert. It is a voluntary commitment by the industry to tell more and better climate stories across all genres. According to the 2022 annual report, 40% of programs now contain sustainable themes and more than 2,000 productions are certified. In 2023, the initiative produced a Telling Climate Stories Pocket Guide, among other things. A brief example: "Portraying sustainable behaviours (sic.) through a character’s actions encourages the audience to do the same even if the character isn’t perfect. …Whether that be a character driving an electric car, taking a train rather than a flight, being vegetarian, shopping sustainably, or taking pleasure in caring for nature, characters can act sustainably even if they aren’t talking about it!” A Biodiversity Guide for Productions created by Albert has also been available since fall 2023. The Climate Spring initiative was also founded in the UK in 2022 to inform, inspire and encourage filmmakers to tackle climate change. The aim is to harness the power of storytelling on screen and open up new and inspiring perspectives on the climate crisis.   Planet Narratives     What is the situation in Germany? Here, too, we need more stories about climate change and biodiversity, especially more stories that talk about solutions and don't just spread images of catastrophe. Some initiatives to promote these stories were launched in 2023. The Planet Narratives collective aims to promote transformative narratives for the planet: "For more tomorrows on the screens and in people's minds." It is part of the non-profit organization Global Eco Transition, led by political economist and transformation research expert, Maja Göpel, and David Wortmann, founder and managing director of the consulting agency DWR Eco, which specializes in renewable energies and clean tech. Planet Narratives promotes the integration of climate and biodiversity in the German film industry. Climate fiction consultant Dr. Nicole Zabel-Wasmuth and award-winning filmmaker Lars Jessen work closely with experts, planning workshops and networking events, creating guidelines, and much more. "Simply imparting knowledge does not lead to action. It is often stories that move and change us. Entertaining, effective, and relevant stories that include the climate and biodiversity crisis. "By bringing solutions into play and creating positive scenarios, by showing the ‘for’ instead of the ‘against’, by creating stories of aspiration instead of fear, we can lead the audience out of the perceived individual helplessness that inhibits us and into collective empowerment. This superpower we have as filmmakers, to tell a powerful story that reaches and touches many people, is one of the greatest forces we can mobilize in the fight against the loss of our fundamental resources." Methods     CLIMATE CHANGE AND BIODIVERSITY: WHAT DOES TELEVISION SHOW – WHAT DO VIEWERS WANT? STUDY AS PDF (in German)PRESS RELEASE OF 24.10.2023 (in German) Photo credit: photo by Sonny Mauricio on Unsplash



On October 24th, the results of the study, "What does television show – What do viewers want?”, initiated by the MaLisa Foundation and the four major TV broadcasting groups, were presented and discussed in Munich.



Climate communication on television: A new study provides insights into how the topics of climate change and biodiversity are represented in German television programming and how they are received by the audience. The study was initiated by the MaLisa Foundation together with ARD, ZDF, ProSiebenSat.1 and RTL Deutschland.