“Everybody talks about the weather,” wrote American author Mark Twain, “but nobody does anything about it.” The same might be said of climate change. Concern is high around the world but measurable results are slow to come, as dramatized in 2014 by reports from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
To rally global support, a group of activists formed an NGO called Save Our Selves, with the support of former US Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Al Gore. Led by an event producer, Kevin Wall, they set out on a quixotic mission: to launch a global benefit concert that would literally circle the globe in 24 hours. The event would raise money for climate causes while asking viewers to support an agenda for change, from reducing personal carbon emissions and improving home energy efficiency to planting trees and supporting businesses that share a commitment to protect the planet.
The job of getting Live Earth from its metropolitan venues to audience worldwide was given to Intelsat, the world’s largest satellite operator. Intelsat arranged to deliver live feeds from New York, London, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney and Hamburg to the Live Earth production center in London over satellite and optical fiber. From London, the finished program was transmitted across optical fiber to teleports in the US and Europe, where it was transmitted to the Intelsat satellite fleet and down to homes and cable systems, as well as to Internet hubs around the globe.
The Largest Live Event in TV History
Against long odds, on July 7, 2007, Live Earth began broadcasting live via satellite from eight international venues to an audience on six continents estimated at 2 billion people. It featured a mix of legendary music acts like The Police, Genesis, Bon Jovi and Madonna with the latest headliners like Kanye West, Kelly Clarkson, Black Eyed Peas and Jack Johnson. It was the largest live event in the history of television, and one with truly global impact, particularly on young people who will inherit the consequences of rising CO2 levels.
Failure Is Not an Option
“I’ve worked on the Olympics,” says the lead production executive for Live Earth, Andre Mika,” and this project was much larger and more complex than the Olympic Games. It was the biggest Rubik’s cube I’ve ever seen.”
With a live event on this scale, failure was not an option. One factor in the event’s success was a decision to use C-band, the most robust of satellite frequencies, wherever there was a risk of heavy rain overpowering higher-frequency signals. It was monsoon season in Asia and it rained cats and dogs in Shanghai – but the show went on without a hitch.
Delivering the headline-grabbing Live Earth event, with its powerful message of change, was a job that only satellite could do, using the full range of frequencies, spacecraft, ground stations and land-based connections to create a single global stage.