Facts, figures and rational analysis are necessary, but insufficient, in persuading individuals and communities to adopt more climate friendly lifestyles, practices and technologies.
A healthy mix of knowledge, analysis and emotional appeal will stand a better chance of moving people to change their attitudes and, ultimately, behaviour.
In this process, media based communications would need to be complemented by formal and non-formal education, activist campaigns and policy reforms that favour less consumerist, more climate friendly lifestyles.
These points were emphasized by a group of Asia Pacific TV producers and film-makers who met in Tokyo on 3 – 4 October 2008 to explored the role of audio-visual media in moving Asia Pacific societies to adopt more climate friendly practices.
The Asia Pacific workshop on 'Changing Climate and Moving Images', held in Tama New Town, Tokyo, was organised by TVE Japan in collaboration with TVE Asia Pacific and supported by Japan Fund for Global Environment.
The workshop was attended by media professionals from China, India, Japan, Kiribati and Vietnam. Over two days, they discussed the current state of public understanding of climate issues in their societies, and focused on the role audio-visual media in responding to the climate crisis.
Journalists need to be well informed and prepared to cover the multi-faceted climate debate, said Hu Jing Cao, producer of science and environmental programmes with China Central Television (CCTV).
"If we're not prepared, we can't seize the moment to use our media products and channels to engage audiences and influence change," she said, adding: "Journalists must never complain."
Pradip Saha, associate director at the Centre for Science and Environment in India and independent film-maker, agreed: "Environmental film-makers in India always complain about their films not been shown by TV channels. The broadcasters say most such films are preachy and boring to their audiences."
Noting that many environmental films, including some on climate, sound like research papers being visualized, he said: "Film-makers have to try harder to engage their audiences. They need to experiment with new formats such as five minute short films and public service announcements that last 60 seconds or less."
Revealing his recent experience in judging Indian TV news awards, Pradip said that many interesting environmental stories are broken and covered on TV channels broadcasting in Indian languages. He lamented, however, how a majority of climate related stories are fleeting and lacking in both a scientific base and proper perspective.
Pham Thuy Trang, a reporter with news and current affairs department of Vietnam Television (VTV), said climate change was still seen by many as a remote problem affecting polar ice caps, glaciers and low lying islands. A survey in late 2007 had revealed low levels of media interest in climate issues.
"In fact, the World Bank has identified Vietnam, with its 3,000 km long coastline, as among the countries most vulnerable to climate change impact. Our media has been reporting some developments – such as increased coastal erosion – as purely local incidents without making the climate link," she noted.
Trang revealed how the global TV series Climate Challenge, distributed by TVE Asia Pacific, changed climate coverage on Vietnamese television (see box for details).
Naamon Marae from Television Kiribati shared his experiences of communicating climate concerns in the low-lying Pacific island nation, on the frontline of impact from sea level rise.
"Our print and broadcast media are very active in covering climate change, which is a matter of survival for our people. Discussions on TV cover both cultural and environmental aspects of climate change," he said.
Naamon screened an extract from his recent film, The Island of my Ancestors (17 mins), which looks at how the unique Kiribati culture is under threat and the coping strategies being adopted by its 100,000 people.
Nalaka Gunawardene, Director of TVE Asia Pacific who moderated the workshop, acknowledged how difficult it was for journalists and producers to make the links between global and local when it comes to climate coverage.
He added: "We can't cover climate simply by flipping from one IPCC assessment report to another, or by hopping from one climate related UN conference to another. Important as they are, these are mere dots that make up only a small part of the bigger picture."
He urged media professionals covering climate issues to 'think beyond the cute and cuddly', noting that "there’s more to climate change than just polar bears and penguins! It's not only sea level rise and glaciers melting."
The workshop had presentations by Toshiro Kojima, former Vice Minister for Global Environment Affairs at the Japanese Ministry of Environment, who spoke on Japan's policy and technology responses to climate change and by Takeshi Hara, senior environmental journalist who worked as an editor of Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, and now a professor at the Waseda University in Tokyo.
The workshop also heard from Kenichi Mizuno, Executive Director of TVE Japan, and Shukichi Koizumi, a leading Japanese independent film-maker on environment who heads Group Gendai film production company.
As part of the event, Asia Pacific participants visited Japan's public broadcaster NHK, and the Stop Ondankan public education centre in Tokyo managed by the Japan Centre for Climate Change Actions (JCCCA).
Read full text of Nalaka Gunawardene's introductory remarks to the workshop
Climate Challenge marks a turning point in Vietnam
In 2007, Vietnam Television (VTV) was one of many Asian broadcasters who ordered the new global TV series Climate Challenge, distributed by TVE Asia Pacific.
The 6-part series co-produced by One Planet Pictures in the UK and dev.tv in Switzerland, linked the global climate crisis with location action for both mitigation and adaptation.
VTV broadcast the full series, versioned into Vietnamese at their expense, in December 2007. It coincided with the 13th UN climate change conference in Bali, Indonesia.
"This marked a turning point in covering climate issues on Vietnamese television," said Pham Thuy Trang, a reporter from VTV who joined the Tokyo workshop. "This was the first time the issue received indepth coverage on TV."
The series, originally broadcast in the foreign documentaries slot, was noticed by the VTV senior management who arranged for its repeat broadcast in the long-established environmental slot.
"Our Director General was impressed by our receiving such a good series on an important global issue," Trang recalled.
Find out how other TV channels may order this global series without license fee.