Broadcasting environmental knowledge: Open University & BBC collaborations serving massive global audiences

Brandon, Mark; Smith, Joe; Garrow, Kat and Law, Andrew (2013). Broadcasting environmental knowledge: Open University & BBC collaborations serving massive global audiences. In: American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2013., 9-13 Dec 2013, San Francisco.



The UK Open University has a long history of working with broadcast media - indeed before it first formed over 40 years ago it was proposed to be a "University of the Air ". Originally the University made its own television programmes that were directly connected with teaching. They were usually recordings of academics giving lectures that were broadcast late at night. Over recent times we have moved into developing co-productions with mainstream broadcast media specifically designed to be of general educational interest to UK and worldwide audiences. These include both high impact one-off programmes such as Are we changing planet Earth?, multiple international award winning series such as Frozen Planet, and World Service radio such as Earth Reporters. These programmes have had global audiences; in some cases of tens of millions. Whilst we have only worked using clear scientific evidence and expertise, we have co-produced media which small sections of the general public could consider controversial. For example, in Are we changing planet Earth? the case was presented pre IPCC AR4 for anthropogenic climate change. The final episode of Frozen Planet> "On thin ice" presented evidence of how the polar climate is changing and likely future global impacts. It created a large and occasionally hostile international media impact long before broadcast. This continued after broadcast in some media but we believe it stopped because the science presented was robust within the current literature. Based around broadcasting, we used a communication strategy based on our personal experience over the last decade along with our institutional experience going back 40 years. For example our outreach include social media, newspapers, radio and podcasts to speak about underpinning science. We use Twitter during actual broadcasts to circulate links to journal articles and provide context around the science presented on screen. Backed up by a large public outreach campaign at science fairs, public talks, and online resource development, our efforts reached hundreds of thousands of actively interested people in addition to the broadcast viewers and listeners.

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