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July 24, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:07am

Staff at Radio Times publisher ask bosses to boycott oil and gas firm ads over ‘climate crisis’

By Charlotte Tobitt

More than 100 employees at Radio Times publisher Immediate Media have demanded their bosses stop carrying advertising from oil and gas companies amid concern over the “growing climate crisis”.

Staff across editorial, production and commercial also asked whether their magazines can do more to talk to their audiences about climate change, saying: “Climate silence is a pervasive problem with the media industry.”

As well as the Radio Times, Immediate’s magazine brands include BBC Good Food, Top Gear, Lonely Planet magazine, Cycling Plus, Gardeners’ World and a number of craft and children’s titles.

Some 125 of its employees signed an open letter, published on blog site Medium yesterday, addressed to chief executive Tom Bureau (pictured) asking for “organisational leadership” on the climate crisis.

Bureau is also deputy chairman of the Professional Publishers Association, which represents some 260 magazine and business publishers.

The letter was originally delivered to Bureau in May along with a copy of Uninhabitable Earth by US journalist David Wallace-Wells, a recently published book warning of the consequences of climate change.

Staff said they had shared the letter publicly in the hope that it would “show other people, in organisations everywhere, that you are not helpless in the face of this climate crisis”.

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In the letter, staff said Immediate Media has the “enviable position of being an important part of millions of people’s lives in the UK”.

They added: “We believe this means that we have a historic and unique opportunity to now become one of the UK’s inspiring climate leading businesses.”

They said existing efforts within the business to recycle and conserve energy are “common sense” but that “this alone will not meet the scale of the changes science has shown as necessary”.

As for oil and gas advertisers, the letter pointed to a 2017 report which claimed 100 companies are responsible for 71 per cent of global emissions, suggesting it is “morally questionable” to do business with them.

“Is it morally acceptable to allow these companies to use our platforms and audience reach?” the letter asked.

“Do we have policies in place about advertising from cigarette or gambling industries on our brands and why would we treat fossil fuel companies differently?”

An Immediate Media spokesperson told Press Gazette the company does not take cigarette advertising, while gambling ads are assessed on a case by case basis.

The letter went on to ask Bureau how Immediate Media titles can play a greater role in talking to their readers about climate change, noting that they are “known for being a trusted voice to our audience”.

It added: “All our brands — whether it’s the concerned voice of a parent uncertain of what the future holds, answering the practical questions of the cook enthusiasts switching to a plant based diet, talking about the role of soil in combating climate change or recognising the cultural lead from emerging TV, film and entertainment in bringing climate change into popular consciousness — we all have a story to tell around this issue…

“Helping people navigate the confusing and rapidly changing climate world is one of the greatest missions any business can hope to achieve this decade.”

The letter also asked Bureau what Immediate’s plan and deadline is for going carbon neutral, and suggested some improvements to make the company a “supportive environment for employees to openly talk and act on climate change”.

These include offering paid “journey days” to staff who choose to travel by train, coach or boat instead of flying on their holidays.

An Immediate Media spokesperson said the letter has already been discussed with staff at an all-company meeting and shared on an internal weekly newsletter.

“The letter raises hugely important and complex questions which we have promised to explore as a matter of priority and report back on our next steps to all our staff in the autumn,” the spokesperson said.

“We have made a commitment to evaluate our carbon footprint and set targets, which we will publish, to reduce it.”

Read the Immediate Media staff open letter in full.

Picture: Colin Stout/Immediate Media

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