BLOG published on 21 Sep 2022

The UN Sustainable Development Goals and public service media

The UN Sustainable Development Goals and public service media
Head of Institutional and International Relations Nicola Frank

In this year's Global Goals Week, our Head of Institutional Relations Nicola Frank writes about the important role public service broadcasters have to play in raising awareness and accountability for the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

With the current unprecedented global challenges, realizing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has certainly not become any easier since they were first adopted by the UN in 2015.  

As part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 17 Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.

But what is public service media’s (PSM) role in this? It is partly about raising awareness and fostering discussion around the many challenges addressed by the SDGs. PSM offer a diverse range of programmes and online services dealing with issues such as climate change, the environment and sustainability, inequalities and gender equality, health issues, and education, to name just a few. In this way PSM empower their audiences to have an informed view on often complex issues. 

But also, by having a critical eye on developments, public service broadcasters hold governments to account for the promises they have made in subscribing to the SDGs. 

I want to give some more detail about some of the 17 SDG Goals and their relevance to the EBU and its Members

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Innovation, sustainable consumption and production, climate change

PSM organizations have a responsibility to scrutinize their own operations, and the EBU is supporting Members in making environmental sustainability a priority across the production and distribution value chain. Innovation is key to all of that - Members are looking, for example, at innovative green sets, virtual production and green AI

Broadcasters are also helping audiences explore the topic of climate change and sustainability, often conducting surveys to gauge interest and highlighting positive steps people can do to make a difference in their daily lives.

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Gender equality, reducing inequalities and inclusive societies

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is also high on the agenda of the EBU and its Members as we seek to ensure all audiences are represented both on and off-screen. We are working to address underrepresentation in 5 key areas: gender equality, ethnic and racial diversity, disabilities, generational diversity and the LGBTQI+ community. 

Broadcasters are exploring DEI at both an organizational and content level. The two aspects are intrinsically linked, because a more diverse staff supports more diverse and inclusive content. The EBU’s DEI casebook provides a great array of examples of PSM initiatives, including AI-powered subtitling; a prime-time magazine programme made by people with disabilities; women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics); a LGBTQ+ charter to ensure a respectful, non-discriminatory and inclusive environment, special initiatives for ethnic minorities and much more. 


Quality education

Education has always been a fundamental role for PSM. Our Members have always offered educational programmes and services but, since the pandemic, their importance has grown. During the Covid lock-down, PSM became the preferred partner for public institutions to continue to deliver education adapted to the official curriculum in a creative way. Most EBU Members had launched quality educational content for children on all platforms, sometimes live educational TV, sometimes radio content, sometimes virtual libraries or classrooms, sometimes communities of support for parents and teachers. 

PSM cannot claim to have all the answers to the challenges that the SDGs seek to address and certainly ‘universal peace in larger freedom’ feels a distant dream at this moment in time. But, in addition to covering these important issues of our times, our broadcasters can stimulate a debate about potential solutions and encourage us all, as citizens, to play our own small role as part of the global community.