ITV News devoted two-thirds of its flagship programme last night to a “major” new series on the impacts of climate change after deciding the issue needed to be made more “tangible” to its heartland viewers.
ITV News acting editor Rachel Corp told Press Gazette the “really rare” decision to lead the News at Ten with segments from the new Earth on the Edge series was made to “make people sit up and take notice” and show them the issue is “not just the stuff of reports”.
Corp (pictured) said the impact of climate change can often not feel very tangible “yet it does feel that the world is at a bit of a tipping point”.
“This is clearly a huge important story,” she said. “Obviously climate change and man’s impact on the planet is one of the biggest stories of our age.
“Our response to it has clearly been a big story this year, particularly with Extinction Rebellion, so it’s been coming more to the fore as a news story.
“But to our viewers and a lot of other people, climate change can feel very remote like it’s happening to other parts of the world or different communities or reports come out about what could happen.”
Despite this, “real and irreversible” damage is being done now, Corp said, which she was keen to get across to viewers.
The series launched last night with three segments on deforestation.
ITV News science editor Tom Clarke travelled to Colombia to look at the damage done to the Amazon rainforest, correspondent Juliet Bremner exposed the illegal practice of logging in Ukraine, and Africa correspondent Penny Marshall discovered how real communities in Ghana are already being affected.
Future programmes – with a big segment planned at least monthly from now on – will look at issues including water shortages, extreme heat, rising sea levels, overpopulation and pollution.
From exposing illegal logging in Ukraine to the battle to help Ghanaians in a grip of disaster, @itvnews has travelled to the frontlines of the global deforestation crisis.
— ITV News (@itvnews) August 12, 2019
Introducing the “major” new series last night, ITV News at Ten anchor Tom Bradby said: “Along with every other news organisation we quite often report on the impact of climate change and perhaps for some of us there is a sense that, yes, it’s bad but humankind is responding and the worst can be averted.
“But those of you who really know this subject will need no convincing of just how fundamental this threat really is to every last one of us. So over the coming months we are going to try and explore the reality in a methodical way.”
Last month the Guardian became one of a handful of UK media organisations to back a US-led initiative aiming to “break the climate silence” that the project claims “has long prevailed within too much of the news media”.
However Corp did not want to criticise any other UK media outlets for what they have or have not done on climate change, saying: “This is about what we think is right for our viewers.”
ITV News at Ten viewers are 60 per cent female, 62 per cent are 65 are over, and split almost equally between middle class and working class backgrounds. Many reflect “heartland Britain” and are “not your London elite,” Corp claimed.
Corp added: “People have been covering the story for decades so I don’t think people have been [ignoring it]. This isn’t a response to the gap in the market.”
ITV News at Ten had an average viewing figure of nearly 2m in the first six months of 2019, an audience share of 11.5 per cent (up from 10.8 per cent in 2018).
Rival UK broadcaster Sky News last month appointed its first dedicated climate change correspondent to “continue to set the agenda” on what it described as a “crisis”.
Picture: ITV News