Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


ITV asks viewers to help shape its ethics strategy

July 2006

Media company ITV is planning to introduce corporate responsibility questions into its future audience surveys as part of its wider efforts to give social and environmental issues more airtime on television.

The UK media group first asked its ‘vision panel’ of adult viewers about CSR issues last November. More than 85 per cent of the panel’s 4000 viewers agreed that it was important for media companies to address social and environmental concerns.

Viewers raised specific concerns about the accuracy of broadcast commercials and the scheduling of programmes in relation to children’s viewing. Nine in ten felt that TV soap operas and dramas were failing to raise important subjects such as climate change or human rights in their story lines.

‘We’re trying to link CSR into the panel so we can get some measurable statistics about our corporate responsibility issues and how we are addressing them,’ said Helen Tautz, deputy company secretary at ITV, whose main channel, ITV1, has the largest programme budget of any commercial channel in Europe.

Tautz added that the FTSE 100 company’s corporate responsibility team is planning to increase its engagement with programmers and creative directors to raise audience awareness.

As a possible model for future programming, she cites the recent 3% from disaster programme of short documentaries on the impact of climate change, broadcast weekly on ITV News from February to May. ‘Our biggest role in this regard is to make people aware of issues such as global warming and energy use,’ she told EP.

ITV, which came 42nd in this year’s Business in the Community Corporate Responsibility Index, up from 60th in 2005, redesigned the CSR section of its corporate website last month to show its approach to corporate responsibility in its programming.

Taking the popular programme I’m a celebrity... as an example, the site explains recent steps the company has taken throughout the production cycle, from commissioning to post-broadcast. At the production stage, environmental surveys of the set were carried out to ensure that damage to the jungle, particularly trees and the banks of streams, was kept to a minimum. All money raised by viewers using premium rate telephone lines was donated to charity.

In production, ITV is assessing ways to offset the carbon emissions of all its programmes. The company recently worked with carbon offset advisers The Carbon Neutral Company to make this year’s BAFTA television awards ‘carbon neutral’.

It recently published its second corporate social responsibility report, using advice from the Context consultancy, and now has a Corporate Responsibility Operational Group with representatives from core company functions to oversee management of CSR issues.

ITV1 programmes have on average 45 million viewers every week, and the company broadcasts 6000 hours of original programming each year. Of the network’s total £2bn ($3.6bn) a year revenue, £1.46bn comes from ITV1 advertising.

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