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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 May 2006, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
Green.tv targets the corporate sector
By Jorn Madslien
BBC News business reporter

Factory in silhouette against a cloudy sky
Many companies are struggling to clean up their image

A new broadband TV channel dedicated to showing films about the environment is offering companies a chance to broadcast their green-tinged messages - for nothing.

"Anyone who makes films about environmental issues can broadcast them for free via Green.tv," says the channel's founder, Ade Thomas.

Already, films by energy giant Npower and ice cream maker Ben & Jerry have been shown by the channel, and Mr Thomas says he expects a string of mainstream firms to follow suit in search of an influential audience.

Passion audience

For businesses that traditionally have had to convince cynical journalists and editors that their eco-friendly intentions are genuine, Green.tv could offer a free pass.

Ade Thomas, founder of Green.tv
Mr Thomas believes big companies are waking up to their social responsibilities

Here, they can brag about their environmental credentials directly to people who care about green issues, without being concerned about editorial controls.

"We initially thought we'd have an editorial board the way a traditional broadcaster has, but we're not going to do that now," Mr Thomas says.

Instead, Green.tv will merely clearly mark who has made each film.

"We're an aggregator of editorial content," says Mr Thomas.

Mr Thomas is sure his enterprise will be self-policing - and that its viewers will soon use its blog to prick holes in any film peddling lies or misleading praise of companies that fail to deliver on their lofty promises.

"Our audience is pretty aware and cynical," he says.

"We call it a passion audience."

And herein lies the attraction for companies.

Unlike traditional, expensive TV adverts, films made for Green.tv can be targeted directly at these passionate viewers, many of whom have come to the site from re-directs from the homebase of the iPod generation.

"Apple is one of our partners. Half of our traffic is coming from iTunes, the most visited website in the world," Mr Thomas says, pointing to the way its environmental film podcasts can be downloaded via Apple Computer's music store.

Global partners

But it is not only companies which can use Green.tv as a platform.

Corporate videos sit side by side with films put together by angry individuals or pressure groups, rallying against the doers of dirty deeds.

Greenpeace activists
Green.tv is working closely with campaigners, such as Greenpeace

In addition, there are films made by a broad range of both UK and international government agencies, charities and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) singing their own praises or hailing their latest campaigns.

"We have 30 NGO and government partners," Mr Thomas says.

The Green movement is represented by high-profile organisations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth while at UK government level the Environment Agency and Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) are represented.

Internationally Green.tv is operated in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, and it is also backed by Water Aid and The World Conservation Union.

Commercially viable

Mr Thomas, who has spent the last decade producing environment films for amongst others the BBC's Countryfile and the charity WWF, is passionate about what he does.

Mr Thomas comes across as more of a green campaigner than an entrepreneur, and Green.tv is itself an NGO.

But there is still a commercial business plan in place, says Mr Thomas, who last year sold his house to finance the channel's development and launch.

In addition to broadcasting films made by outsiders, Green.tv will be making its own movies about environmental topics.

And although the channel itself is not a profit-making venture, Mr Thomas' production company Largeblue is.

As yet, Largeblue has not made money from making Green.tv.

But over time, Mr Thomas hopes it will get commissions to produce sponsored programmes for the channel, land other deals on the back of its green activities, and eventually run adverts on the channel with some of the profits going to Largeblue.

"Climate change seems to be on everybody's mind and big companies are increasingly locked into the corporate social responsibility agenda," Mr Thomas says - in the hope that, one day, he might be able to pay himself more than he pays those working for him.

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