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Sky, water and making the news (or not)

 

Last week I was in the running to be interviewed live on Sky News (in HD no less). This was because of a Energy Saving Trust report arguing UK households waste energy and water on things like long showers and repeatedly boiling overfilled kettles.

River in the Lake District© Global Warming Images / WWF-Canon

Sky had come to us to comment on the impact of wasting energy and water from an environmental perspective, and after some to’ing and fro’ing between us and Sky, we agreed we’d speak about water, where it comes from and whether we have enough for us to keep frittering it away. (The short answer is we don’t have enough for that.)

As the day of my interview arrived, three thoughts were uppermost in my mind:

  1. I needed to make the point that we all generally use too much water, and it’s having a big impact on the natural environment. The water comes from rivers and underground aquifers as much as it does from reservoirs, and not everyone’s accountable for the amount being taken out
  2. It had been a while since I had worn a shirt, tie and waistcoat and intentionally planned to be in front of a camera. (I hasten to add trousers were also part of the ensemble – no ‘Anchorman’ stylings here)
  3. Gags about court appearances, interviews and waiters get old fast

As it turned out, my screen appearance didn’t happen – this time.

Sky interviewed a chap from Anglian Water instead – he stood in front of a nice full reservoir, emphasising they’re doing a cracking job of managing water – no water shortages and hosepipe bans here, thank you very much. It was quite a different dynamic to the interview we would have done. Sky unsurprisingly tried to put the Anglian spokesperson on a much more defensive footing about his company’s role in the issue of water capacity and responsibility. But he was an old hand and refused to dance to that tune, instead continually steering his answers to talk about their key messages on the company’s improvement efforts and how people can help save water.

The story came out on what ended up as a busy news day, which affected its stickiness in the media. There was an opportunity to move the issue on from the financial cost of water bills to link to the actual impact of over-abstraction and the failure of the water bill to tackle any of the major problems. But the story didn’t have the ‘legs’ to stay on the news agenda over the day because of stories from Egypt and the media frenzy created by Tom Watson resigning.

Opportunities in media can be fleeting, but there will be more coming up as the water bill progresses through parliament. If the hot weather holds there is inevitability about drought, hosepipe bans and infrastructure stories bubbling up to the surface. WWF can really have an impact in the media, if we can steer the story away from water companies and leaks – and on to the need for a stronger water bill.

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