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The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has called for television shows to pay more notice to environmental issues.

This follows a study called ‘Subtitles to save the World’.  The study monitored of one year of subtitles from 40 TV channels, monitoring the frequency of various words.  Although ‘Brexit’ had a huge 68,816 mentions, the phrase ‘climate change’ came up only 3,125 across the year.  This was the word related to sustainability with the most mentions.   ‘Beer’ had 21,647.

25 words related to climate change were tracked and some words – ‘carbon offset’ and ‘hybrid car’ – were mentioned very few times: 11 and 22 times respectively.  The research, undertaken by Deloitte, also highlighted that the number of times a word was mentioned was disproportionate to its environmental impact; words associated with energy were less common than those associated with diet, although energy is a greater percentage of the average person’s carbon footprint.

The research also showed that there was a preference to talk about the issues and problems rather than the solutions.  This could be linked to how narrative favours conflict; environmental problems thus become more engaging than characters discussing the benefits of switching to green energy.

However, research by mental healthy charity Mind has shown how TV can have an impact. They found that 16% of people who watch a mental health storyline in a TV show seek professional help, and even more contact a loved one, friend or colleague.  Similarly, Blue Planet II is well known for raising awareness around plastic pollution.

English applicants might reflect on to what extent narratives should raise awareness about contemporary issues and influence behaviours.  They might also consider the conflict between writing dramatic episodes and trying to encourage a positive attitude towards sustainability.  Psychology and Psychological and Behavioural Sciences applicants might be interested in reflecting on how entertainment can influence behaviour and mindset.

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