My 2 Cents

Just as late U.S. president Richard Nixon used to preface his introductions, I too want to “make it perfectly clear” that television is not a tool for altruistic purposes. Television follows the money –– it always has ––  and therefore it will follow through with the “green” trend — where “green is now code word for environmentally friendly programming —” only if it will bring greenbacks.

Plus, the Financial Times has asked: “When was the last time you saw a business presentation you enjoyed? […] Never?” (FT August 14, 2007).

Then looking at this year’s MIPCOM conference line-up, among the most useless panels are those concerning mobile video (an old hat) and those about “green TV” (a new hat).

At MIP-TV last April we ignored one seminar that, according to the guide’s description, looked at “what the broadcast industry is doing to help raise awareness about environmental issues and particularly about global warming.” Reportedly, programming experts talked about what it really means to commission or distribute “green” programming and used examples from different genres such as documentaries, kids programming and reality television.

Now, a few months later, at MIPCOM, we must again ignore similarly useless seminars, this time falling under the banner of the grandiosely labeled “Green Day.” Talk about the TV industry having a guilty conscience….

In the old ages, one could easily judge a city’s level of corruption, sin and decadence simply by counting its number of churches. Today, guilty money goes to universities, hospitals and libraries. Poor people, on the other hand, cleanse their guilt by becoming religious fundamentalists, ready to shoot anyone who dares disagree with them.

It now seems that television too has a guilty conscience. But don’t be fooled; it’s just a show. Yet, if this “green” stuff could turn into a bona fide show business, then the TV interest would be real.

Don’t get me wrong. Broadcast television is not evil, and those who taught otherwise have been proven wrong by the rise of the video game industry (with games such as “Doom”).

In October 2002 –– when we naively took this “green TV” stuff seriously –– VideoAge was one of the first international TV trade journals to publish a feature on the activities of the Los Angeles-based Environmental Media Association (www.ema-online.org). That report, widely distributed at MIPCOM, was titled: “Entertainment and the Environment: How EMA Sounds its Warning” (http://www.videoageinternational.com/articles/2002/10/article4.html) and reported comments from then-EMA executive director (and now president) Debbie Levin.

Well, that was one of the most ignored stories ever published in VideoAge’s 26-year history. Even the EMA shunned it. It seemed the association was upset that TV networks around the world would take notice, when, in reality and to EMA’s relief, they totally disregarded it. By the way, one of the EMA’s founders was producer Norman Lear.

Indicative is the fact that at the most recent MIP-TV, during the first of the market organizers’ useless “green TV” seminars, neither EMA’s Levin nor any other EMA officials were anywhere to be found (although an environmental agency from the U.K. government was present).

Now, five MIPCOMs away from VideoAge’s first environmental awareness attempt, this type of disregard has been institutionalized. Nonetheless, “green TV” is a great topic for seminars and websites; it brings in money to event organizers, cleanses some guilt and brings nice people together. But don’t expect real interest from television. For now it’s all just talk. Indeed, one of our contributors declined to write a story about environmental TV issues because of a lack of tangible information. And, when the environment issue is appropriated by the entertainment industry, it only elicits laughter, as in The Simpsons Movie.

In VideoAge’s October 2002 story it was reported that “[TV] spots with Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz are already airing [as public service announcements] throughout the United States. ‘By using hot, young Hollywood as role models, young people will think it’s cool and trendy to be good to the environment,’ said Levin. ‘It’s all about role modeling.’”

However, looking at television’s history in the public interest arena — illegal drugs, drunk driving, health crises, George W. Bush’s election, the Iraq War, cigarette smoking, firearms’ accessibility to children — one cannot help but wonder.

All are important subjects for which television failed miserably. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg singlehandedly did more to bring oxygen back into public places worldwide (by banning cigarette smoking in New York) than all the TV networks in the world combined. So, what would make someone think that this time television will be able to have a say on global warming, pollution, conservation or the environment in general?

Dom Serafini