Virgin Media Television (VMTV) completed a sustainable retrofit of its studio set, which pushed boundaries. This encouraged colleagues who were already passionate and wanted to act on sustainability, to incorporate sustainability into programming, initially focusing on content for the Six O'Clock Show.


Virgin Media Television (VMTV), a leading media company, embarked on a sustainable journey with the fit-out of one of its studios. The goal was to disassemble the old studio set and build a new set and studio, where everything from lighting to furniture was sourced in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. Inspired by this project, the production team began to create content with a sustainability focus.


Virgin Media have set science-based sustainability targets as part of its Connecting 4 Good manifesto. However, ‘sustainability’ is a complex topic that can overwhelm many people, and employees can feel unsure how they can contribute to becoming more sustainable within their area or department. This is particularly relevant for those creating content for television, who need to create content that their audiences can relate to and learn from. VMTV were also conscious that environmental sustainability can often feel like it is all about doom and gloom, it is vital to present the facts while still giving people a sense of hope.


Áine Ní Chaoindealbháin, Deputy Managing Director VMTV, spearheaded a project to retrofit VMTV’s set aligned to environmental and ethical criteria. It was an industry first and acts as a blueprint for the sector.

The sustainability ethos did not stop at the studio fit-out, with Áine encouraging the production teams to think about how they would create content with a sustainability focus.

The Six O’Clock Show, hosted in Virgin’s sustainable studio, is a popular talk show that aims to provide engaging and informative content to its viewers. Alex Reilly, Producer and Sustainability Champion for the programme, was instrumental in driving sustainability content on the show. Initially, the show only included climate content once or twice a year, around the release of major reports. However, the show’s production team wanted to make sustainability a regular part of the show, despite concerns about losing viewers to “bad news.”

Alex started to research guests and attend Albert’s talks and training, looking for ways to bring sustainability into the show. Alex had also recently graduated from An Taisce’s Climate Ambassador programme.

The Six O’Clock Show started by incorporating sustainability features into cooking segments, featuring at least one vegetarian dish a week and promoting seasonal and local food. A weekly slot featuring anti-food waste chef Conor Spacey explaining how to avoid food waste was introduced. This then led to sustainability features being incorporated into all segments on regular basis. Examples include:

  • Climate issues: Fionnuala Moran has become the shows climate action expert with a regular segment that covers a range of issues such as: the impact of fast fashion on the planet, climate injustice, auditing our rubbish, sustainable music festivals, Earth Day, plastic pollution, Second Hand September etc. Fionnuala creates awareness and builds on this education by giving the audience tips on practical actions they can take.
  • Biodiversity: VMTV regularly features biodiversity experts such as scientists and gardeners to discuss importance of biodiversity to the planet and how to protect and encourage biodiversity in our own lives.
  • Behaviour change: Behaviour change is threaded throughout the various climate segments, some sessions have been more overt than others, for example a segment with Padraig Walsh – Behavioural Psychologist explored ‘The science of Change – the effect on our attitudes and responses to climate change’.
  • Special Guests with a spotlight on climate: Increasingly the show has started to subtly ask climate-related questions to guests spanning the world of film to music and beyond.
Karen Koster is wearing a dress borrowed from a sustainable rental company
Karen Koster is wearing a dress borrowed from a sustainable rental company
Fionnuala Moran is wearing a dress made from the old net curtains in her house
Conor Spacey, anti-food waste chef
Conor Spacey, anti-food waste chef

Equally the principles of plastic free, zero waste, reuse, sustainable transport and second hand clothes have been applied to the practice of programming for the Six O’Clock show. During Climate Action Week 2022, presenters of The Six O’Clock show took part in a second-hand clothing challenge and wore clothes sourced from the likes of Oxfam and Thrifty. This served as a brilliant talking point on the show and impacted the presenters, VMTV staff and the show’s audience. The use of sustainable clothing will be a focus for Alex and her team on the show going forward in 2023. The show is also Albert certified.

The Six O’Clock Show Climate Action week was also supported internally across Virgin Media, with a week of webinars and office-based activities to educate and engage employees around sustainability. This included a Biodiversity talk, a webinar from Global Action Plan, fashion swaps, and bike maintenance workshops.

A climate content log kept by Virgin for The Six O’Clock Show keeps tabs on how frequently climate action content features. Over the course of 2022 the climate log has featured climate content 70 times. From reasons why Harry Potter actor and activist Evanna Lynch became vegan to a dedicated climate segment hosted by Fionnuala Moran, climate content is on the rise on the show. This is a brilliant tool for getting started and keeping track of a programme’s impact and influence. This is an impressive start to climate content at VMTV and there’s more to come in 2023.

Results & Benefits

From Alex’s point of view on the programming side and as an individual who doesn’t have sustainability in her job title, the benefits of this work can be both personal and professional.

Personal Benefits:

  • It helps to ease anxiety about the climate crisis by taking action and making a positive impact.
  • It provides a sense of purpose and helps one feel like they are contributing to the fight against climate change in their own way.
  • Speaking about environmental issues, such as at climate ambassador events, can increase one’s confidence in speaking on these subjects and deepen their understanding of what they can do to make a difference.

Professional Benefits:

  • This work can serve as a passion project, providing an opportunity to break away from the daily routine of production and explore new ways to be creative.
  • Incorporating environmental measures into the production process, such as reducing food waste and avoiding disposable cups, can help to set an example for others and influence their behaviour.
  • This work can help to differentiate the chat show from other productions and provide a unique aspect to the channel.

Lessons Learned

Learnings for network members:
Holistic and Circular Approach: VMTV’s approach to building a fully sustainable studio was holistic and circular, with every aspect of the project carefully considered, this ethos has fed down to programming and the approach to sustainability practices in the Six O’Clock show.

Passionate and Motivated Team: VMTV has a passionate and motivated team onboard who go the extra mile to ensure every aspect of the Six O’Clock show is sustainable.

Impact of Climate Ambassadors: Climate ambassadors, such as Alex Riley, can have a significant impact in driving sustainability content and actions within organisations. Alex’s passion for sustainability led her to become a climate ambassador, and she was able to bring more sustainability content to The Six O’Clock Show.

Incremental Change: Alex started small by incorporating sustainability into cooking segments, featuring at least one vegetarian dish a week, and promoting seasonal, local, and food waste-conscious cuisine. This was followed by a dedicated climate segment, anti-food waste chef Conor Spacey, and climate-related questions to guests spanning various industries.

Keeping Track of Impact: VMTV kept a climate content log to keep track of how frequently climate action content features on The Six O’Clock Show. This is a useful tool for organisations to get started and monitor their impact and influence in driving sustainability actions and content.

Here are some tips from Alex on how to thread climate into your programming:

  1. Have someone passionate lead the way in seeking out climate stories. This person should be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the environment.
  2. Have someone responsible for ensuring that the production is environmentally friendly.
  3. Encourage ideas from the rest of the team and integrate them into the production process. This will help to promote a culture of sustainability within the organisation.

Contact Us

If you want to find out more about Sustainable Media Ireland, are interested in becoming a Member, or are keen to collaborate, please get in touch by sending us an email.

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