The Greening of News Corp.
Murdoch Leads the Way, Committing Conglomerate to Reducing Emission of Greenhouse Gases, Cutting Energy Use
The carpet won’t actually be a shade of green, but nominees and presenters will be parading on material made of recycled plastic bottles as they enter the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles for the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards Sept. 16.
The ceremony, which will be televised on Fox, will be an eco-friendly and carbon-neutral broadcast, with every attempt being made to use locally grown organic food, biodiesel fuel, hybrid vehicles, bicycles instead of golf carts and compostable and recyclable materials. The production will be in keeping with the spirit of News Corp.’s recently launched top-to-bottom effort to become a green media company.
The ambitious and far-reaching environmental initiative by Fox’s parent company, announced by News Corp. Chairman-CEO Rupert Murdoch to employees on May 9, is already being touted as something for other global media companies to emulate.
It commits the company to address its impact on climate change by lowering its energy consumption and reducing its emission of greenhouse gases. After measuring usage of all fuels, electricity and business air travel and verifying a carbon footprint of 641,150 tons a year in fiscal 2006 (the average U.S. household emits 59 tons per year), News Corp. set a goal of carbon dioxide neutrality across all the company’s business units—print, broadcast, film and online—by 2010. In the United Kingdom, operations at BSkyB, another piece of Mr. Murdoch’s media empire, have already reached that goal.
To address unavoidable emissions, carbon offsets will be purchased in order to reach zero, or carbon-neutral. An offset is a financial tool, certified by one of several accredited organizations, guaranteeing that carbon from another source is removed or prevented from being released into the atmosphere.
The global energy initiative came as something of a surprise from the head of a company that often is viewed as politically conservative. But Mr. Murdoch, who was born in Australia and has previously been skeptical of global warming, told his employees he had seen many signs that showed just how real the threat is.
"Australia is suffering its worst drought in 100 years," Mr. Murdoch said during the announcement. "Now, I realize we can’t take just one year in one city or even one continent as proof that something unusual is happening. And I am no scientist. But I do know how to assess a risk, and this one is clear. Climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats. We may not agree on the extent, but we certainly can’t afford the risk of inaction."
After beginning to develop the initiative less than a year ago, News Corp. is already taking action on many fronts, beginning with an internal program that has been branded Cool Change.
Fox created an employee leadership program with "Cool Counselors" to help each department integrate energy and environmental initiatives. Their mandate is to disseminate information on what is going on at the company with energy-saving and eco-friendly initiatives, provide access to facts and tips, gather employee ideas and help share ideas and best practices across Fox divisions and News Corp. businesses around the world.
Fox also is giving its employees a rebate of up to $4,000 for purchasing or leasing hybrid vehicles. Its dining outlets, which are introducing biodegradable materials and donating excess food to food banks, encourage employees to get involved through Cool Change rewards and discounts for using recyclable coffee mugs.
A recent Cool Change fair on the Fox lot gave employees information on how to integrate energy-efficient and environmentally friendly behaviors into their lives; offered tips and guidance on available products and services for energy-efficient lighting, appliances, insulation and solar options for homes; and provided information on the hybrid incentive.
A Fox intranet site offers information on how to save energy in homes and offices and a rewards program for getting involved.
"We’ve seen that this issue holds enormous appeal for employees here and around the world, and we’re working on ways to engage and involve everyone," said Rachel Webber, News Corp.’s director of energy initiatives.
The Fox lot in Los Angeles completed three separate efficiency reviews and determined the need for improvements in lighting and air conditioning that are being implemented. It’s estimated those improvements will save almost 90 metric tons of carbon dioxide—equivalent to nearly 10,000 gallons of gasoline or 3,600 backyard barbecue propane cylinders.
The measures include replacing nearly 1,000 incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps; replacing more than 90 traditional fluorescent fixtures with high-efficiency fixtures, ballasts and lamps; installing nearly 60 motion sensors in conference rooms and some offices that turn off lights automatically when the rooms aren’t in use; and replacing 24 incandescent and fluorescent exit signs with energy-efficient LED units.
"We are working to find every opportunity to reduce our energy use," said Ms. Webber. "This is an issue that touches everything we do, whether it’s powering a stage, building a set or marketing a film. Energy runs through it all."
Taking the new corporate environmental focus literally from the ground up, a new Fox Studios building on the Fox lot, adjacent to its sitcom stages, will be News Corp.’s first facility that is LEED-certified—for "leadership in energy and environmental design"—by the U.S. Green Buildings Council, and one of only two new major studio buildings in the U.S. to meet those standards.
The four-story, 38,000-square-foot building was designed by the L.A. architectural firm Gensler & Associates and will house about 130 creative and executive staff when it is completed in April. It was on the drawing board several years ago, but the decision was made late last year to revise the plans and aim for LEED certification.
"It was already in the works, and we saw a big opportunity to apply lots of lessons for the future," said J.R. DeLang, executive VP of studio and post-production operations for Fox Filmed Entertainment. "We’ve diverted over 75 percent of construction waste from local landfills. Over 30 percent of the building material contains recyclable content, and 20 percent of it is manufactured regionally, so as not to be shipped in from another state. Indoors, we use only adhesive and sealant with low VOC, volatile organic compounds. The lower the VOC, the lower the toxins and the better for indoor air quality. All the paints are certified under the Green Seal standard and all woods will contain no urea-formaldehyde resins. Once we’re done, we’ll use only environmentally safe cleaning materials that we’ve already incorporated across the entire lot."
Part of LEED certification involves the sustainability of the site itself. "Because we’re a campus, we are arranging premium parking for low-emission and hybrid vehicles and for those who are carpooling, and providing better access for bicyclists, including showering facilities," said Mr. DeLang, who added that in many cases the goal is to exceed the certification standards.
As it gets its own house in order, News Corp. has the opportunity to reach millions of consumers worldwide with the goal of saving energy, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and making a positive impact on climate change.
"Our audience’s carbon footprint is 10,000 times bigger than ours," Mr. Murdoch said. "Imagine if we succeed in inspiring our audiences to reduce their own impacts on climate change by just 1 percent. That would be like turning the state of California off for almost two months."
Meetings have been under way with showrunners and writing teams on how to weave messages into the media people are already consuming. The answers will be revealed over the coming years and woven into storylines in creative ways.
Fox drama "24" took the lead recently by announcing its commitment to fighting climate change. The show will take significant steps to reduce its carbon footprint by switching to biodiesel fuel in generators, using renewable energy where possible and utilizing hybrid vehicles—and hopes to inspire other series and millions of viewers to do the same. Star Kiefer Sutherland has shot a public service announcement on the subject, and there are plans for a series of PSAs with other "24" cast members to air throughout the season. It’s also likely viewers will see more environmental angles woven into the series’ storylines.
"We’re excited by our potential to reach a mainstream audience on this issue, which has the possibility to strengthen our relationships with audiences and enrich the way stories are told," Ms. Webber said. "Energy and climate change are increasingly relevant, and the challenge is to take solutions that often feel incremental or boring and make them fun and exciting. We’re just at the beginning, and we have much to learn."
Highlights of News Corp.'s Environmental and Energy Initiatives
- Fox Television Stations launched FOXe on Aug. 6, a campaign featuring a weeklong news series on energy-saving stories, public service announcements on how to save energy in the home and a dedicated FOXe Web page.
- Fox Sports' recent production of Major League Baseball's All-Star Game included use of B-20 biodiesel in generators, banners and inks made with eco-friendly products, local sourcing of catered food and water, pickup of mixed recyclables on site and hybrid and high-gas-mileage vehicles rented for use on the production.
- Fox produced and hosted the first carbon-neutral upfront presentation to advertisers in May in New York.
- The National Geographic Channel launched Preserve Our Planet, an on-air and consumer marketing initiative that includes upcoming programming, a robust Web site and PSAs dedicated to empowering viewers and communities by informing them how their choices and activities can make a positive difference in the effort to protect the environment.
- MySpace launched www.myspace. com/ourplanet, a community dedicated to environmental issues.
- The Teen Choice Awards on Aug. 26 promoted the show with a beach cleanup in partnership with the Surfrider Foundation, used vinyl backdrops made from old billboards, used recycled artificial grass instead of a red carpet, used hybrid vehicles to transport talent, ran on biodiesel fuel and recycled the whole set.
Behind-the-scenes at Fox
- Fox Filmed Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television Studios are working on extensive guides to climate- and eco-friendly television and film production, including sourcing energy and carbon-efficient generators and fuel all over the world.
- The Virtual Production Office has begun integrating energy-saving and eco-friendly guidance on the company's intranet.
- Fox Network Engineering & Operations' new facility in Houston will utilize the latest light-emitting-diode (LED) lighting technology in all of its master control rooms, which is expected to save thousands of dollars in electricity costs each year.
- The Fox lot recycles 80 percent of all solid waste, as well as paint, batteries and electronics.
- The Fox lot banned the use of virgin paper and now uses 30 percent recycled-content copy paper. Also, many Fox divisions are printing scripts on both sides of the page whenever possible and have eliminated press clipping distribution via paper, replacing it with e-mailing PDFs.
- Fox and News Corp. cafeterias in Los Angeles and New York are using biodegradable utensils and plates.
Fox IT initiatives
- Fox Information Technology regularly sends e-mails to the user community reminding them to shut down computers at off hours and asking employees to shut down their desktops nightly. So far, Fox has avoided more than 10 million pounds of carbon emissions in fiscal year 2007.
- Fox IT has started deployment of technologies that enable paperless meetings, each one expected to avoid 2 pounds of carbon emissions.
- Fox IT's data center efficiency and energy initiatives are reducing the amount of energy used in the data center—avoiding almost 550,000 pounds of carbon emissions by consolidating servers.
Regional sports networks and cable channels
- FSN Ohio and FSN Midwest terminated bottled water service, installing a water purification system for employees to use with reusable cups.
- FSN Rocky Mountain replaced all of its microphones with rechargeable batteries and replaced light bulbs in the control room, tape room and edit rooms, resulting in an expected 60 percent savings in electricity use.
- Speed, a cable channel for auto enthusiasts, replaced lighting, switched to 100 percent recycled copy paper and initiated a new recycling program.
- Fuel TV's "American Misfits" returned this summer with an environmentally friendly set and production.
- National Geographic Channel is investing in video-conferencing facilities to reduce air travel and creating an online portal to enable desktop screening of video to reduce DVD and VHS production.
Other News Corp. initiatives
- At News Corp.'s headquarters in New York, replacement of light bulbs is under way with more energy-efficient models; virgin copy paper has been replaced with 30 percent recycled content paper; biodegradable materials are being used in the cafe; employees are encouraged to turn off computers and monitors when leaving the office and to switch to online access to pay statements to eliminate mailing of paper statements.
- The Community Newspaper Group in New York ran a 20-page "Cool Change" section offering practical and easy ways for readers to incorporate energy-saving and eco-friendly solutions into their lifestyles and looking at how businesses can save money by cutting energy use.
- In March, News International, News Corp.'s newspaper business in the U.K., switched its power source to 70 percent from hydroelectric plants in Scotland and 30 percent from combined heat and power sources—both recognized forms of low-carbon energy.
- The Sun newspaper in the U.K. launched a "Go Green" online section produced in association with British Gas featuring top stories, tips, videos and contests to inspire its millions of readers to reduce their contribution to climate change.
- News Ltd.'s Chullora Print Center in Sydney, Australia, saved more than 5.5 million gallons of water over the past five years through water-reduction strategies and aims to reduce potable water consumption to 50 percent of historical levels.
- In mid-July BSkyB (News Corp.'s satellite TV company in the U.K.) launched Green Shoots, a competition that invites the public to share the ways in which they are making a difference on climate change through 60-second films. It launched with a call for entries from Steve Carell and will run through December.
- In July, HarperCollins U.K. switched to 100 percent renewable electricity across all three of its sites and committed to print all of its Fourth Estate imprint titles on 100 percent recycled paper and become the first major carbon-neutral trade publisher in the U.K. by the end of 2007.
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- CNN Teams Trio for 'Planet in Peril'
- Q&A: CNN's Anderson Cooper on 'Planet in Peril'
- NBC Launches Weeklong Green Event
- Ken Burns Goes Back to Nature on PBS
- Sundance Focuses on Green Documentaries
- SEJ Panel Aims to Get Scientists, Journalists Working Together
- The Greening of News Corp.
- CNN's Peter Dykstra Touts New Technology's Ability to Improve How Environmental Stories Are Told
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- Weather Channel's Heidi Cullen Calls Herself an 'Infrastructure Junkie'
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- KRON4's Clifford Created Environment Beat for Local Station, Web Site
- Environmental Reporting Key to KNBC
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- Discovery HQ Goes Carbon-Neutral
- Maine Station Manager Takes the Heat
- Editorial: Media Giants Lead the Way to Green Future
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