State of Play 2021: Management Practices in UK Unscripted Television

Authors: Van Raalte, C., Wallis, R. and Pekalski, D.

Pages: 1-100

Publisher: Bournemouth University

Place of Publication: Poole, UK

ISBN: 9781858993249


In many ways, UK television has been a great national success story, making a substantial contribution to GDP while setting the standard, internationally, for high quality content. However this success has been at the expense of those who work in the industry,.... who frequently experience working conditions that would not be tolerated in any other business. Recent decades have seen the gradual casualisation of the workforce and the enervation of the unions, creating an industry that has devolved risk, ultimately, to individual freelancers who have little or no protection for their own livelihoods or wellbeing.

The working experience of the television freelancer is characterised by last minute job bookings and last minute cancellations; extended hours without breaks or compensation; discrimination; nepotism; sexual harrassment; and workplace bullying beside the prevailing precarity that makes it almost impossible for them to challenge any of these conditions. Yet it is on this standing army of freelancers that the industry depends.

Industry leaders complain of skills shortages – especially in management and leadership roles – which they try to address by recruiting more new entrants. They despair at a lack of diversity behind the camera – which they try to address through assorted short-term schemes and initiatives. They grudgingly acknowledge research that shows poor mental health outcomes in the sector compared with the general population – which they try to address with helplines.

What they largely fail to address are the underlying conditions that militate against a healthy work-life balance, drive many experienced professionals to leave the industry prematurely, and effectively guarantee the reproduction of privilege within the ranks of those who survive.

Based on a survey of almost twelve hundred television production professionals, this study reveals management and recruitment practices that are not only unethical and damaging to individuals, but damaging to the sustained commercial and creative success of the industry - impacting, as they do, on the mental health, diversity and skills- base of the workforce.

Source: Manual