The World gears up for Live Earth
by Andy Sennitt
Concerts on 07-07-07 will highlight climate change

Just over 40 years ago, my parents and I watched one of the most historic programmes in TV broadcasting history.

On Sunday 25 June 1967, the Eurovision programme 'Our World' - the first-ever live international television production - was broadcast across the globe between 9pm and 11pm CET.

As the EBU website reminds us, it was an undertaking of incredible complexity, involving control rooms around the world, three satellites (Intelsat I, Intelsat II, and ATS-1), over 1.5 million km of cable, and ten thousand technicians and programme staff.

The ground rules for the show included that everything had to be live, and that no politicians or heads of state must be seen. Nevertheless, the world's politicians almost wrecked it. Just four days before the broadcast, five Eastern block countries dropped out. They were protesting the West's response to the 'Six day War' in the Middle East.

But the show went ahead to an estimated audience of between 400 and 700 million, an enormous audience even by today's standards. All in black and white, and various shades of grey, as colour TV was still in its infancy.

John Lennon singing "All You Need Is Love". Photo (c) EBUI remember watching, spellbound, as for its finale the programme went live to the recording studio in Abbey Road where The Beatles were putting the finishing touches to a song they had written specially for the occasion - All You Need is Love. Whenever I hear that recording, I think back to that warm evening in 1967, when we knew we had just witnessed a piece of broadcasting history. On Saturday 7 July, we will witness another.

40 years on
Intelsat again plays a major role in what's being billed as the largest High Definition music event in history. Live Earth, a worldwide series of concerts, will provide 24 hours of music from eight cities across seven continents, and will feature performances by more than 150 of the world's top musical artists. The estimated TV audience on this occasion is over two billion, about a third of the world's population. Most will watch in colour, and a lucky minority in High Definition.

But, technically impressive though it will be, this 24-hour event isn't primarily intended to show off the latest technology. There's a more pressing reason. The aim is to deliver a worldwide call to action, and find the solutions necessary to deal with climate change and global warming. Live Earth is just the beginning of a multi-year campaign to drive individuals, corporations and governments to take the necessary steps.

Global partnership
Live Earth logoLive Earth is partnering with the Alliance for Climate Protection, The Climate Group, Stop Climate Chaos and other international organizations in this ongoing effort. Live Earth was founded by Kevin Wall, a worldwide executive producer of the Live 8 concert series in 2005, and is supported by former US Vice President Al Gore.

The exact details of radio and TV coverage will vary from country to country. Some, like the Netherlands, are taking the whole 24-hour package, others are airing shorter segments, though may have recorded highlights of the bits they didn't carry live. Major concerts to be shown on TV will take place in New York, Rio de Janeiro, London, Johannesburg, Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney and Hamburg.

The concert planned for Rio de Janeiro, was almost cancelled after a judge ruled that the police did not have enough manpower to guarantee the safety of the 700,000 people expected. But last-minute attempts to save the event, which will be the last one of the eight concerts, were successful and have avoided embarrassment for the organisers. These major concerts will be supplemented by hundreds of smaller scale events across the planet.

The Dutch contribution
In the Netherlands, the entire 24-hour sequence of concerts will be carried on radio by public network 3FM from 0700 local time on Saturday. On TV, there will be 22 hours of coverage commencing at 0800 on Saturday, and even when the concerts have ended, 3FM will broadcast a six-hour highlights package at 1200-1800.

There will also be Dutch reporters at the various venues, and some of 3FM's top DJs will be linking the marathon programme from the studio in Hilversum. 3FM has been quite proactive in its attention to climate change - a few months ago we reported on its Noordpool FM initiative.

Trees for TravelRadio Netherlands Worldwide is doing its bit for the environment too. We take part in the Trees for Travel program. The Trees for Travel Foundation recently told RNW that a total of 768.75 tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide) was generated during business flights by our employees in 2006. Trees for Travel has compensated for this by planting trees to nullify the effect of the CO2 produced by these flights.

Live Earth will be a great global event, but hopefully it won't be just another landmark in broadcasting history. I hope future generations will be able to look back on 07-07-07 as a day that changed the world.

(Source: Radio Netherlands Worldwide)