U.K. TV Industry Brings Freelancer Discussions to the Table

Naman Ramachandran
·4-min read

The U.K.’s major broadcasters and industry bodies have agreed to regularly discuss the plight of freelancers who are reeling after being out of work for the last five months due to the coronavirus induced shutdown.

Broadcasters BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky, UKTV and STV, below-the-line union Bectu, producers’ body Pact, Film and TV Charity, training body ScreenSkills, The TV Collective, Share My Telly Job, Directors U.K., Disabled People in TV, Viva La PD, The Unit List and Women in Film and TV formed a TV Coalition for Change and have signed an agreement to participate in quarterly discussions about how to improve freelance working practices.

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The meetings will be coordinated by Adeel Amini from the TV Mindset, an organization that aims to support the mental health of TV freelancers. The first meeting will take place at the end of September or early October and will continue every quarter until December 2021.

Following the “Time for Action: The Freelancer Campaign” session at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Monday, the coalition signed a letter of intent that stated: “We believe every freelancer working in our industry deserves decent working conditions and that we should all advocate a culture that promotes respect, professionalism and investment in people. The best creative content will come from an industry that puts people first, celebrates difference and enables us all to thrive. Ours is an industry made up of a huge range of different companies, broadcasters and talented people, and we all have a role to play in shaping the way we work.”

U.K. freelancers have had access to a government relief package, if they meet a number of conditions. However, a number of freelancers have fallen through the cracks in the scheme and have been excluded from economic relief.

“Freelancers are the lifeblood of everything we do and I would say that across all of the genres we need the freelance community to be at the top of its game and feel really confident,” said director of BBC Content Charlotte Moore, during a ‘Meet the Controller’ session at the Edinburgh TV festival on Monday. “The onus is on all of us to really help with fair recruitment policies, make sure that people aren’t just hiring the same people. It is really on us to make sure that we treat people fairly during a production and I think I would really ask that indies and broadcasters take this on together, because if we don’t look after freelancers then we won’t get through these difficult times together and then the industry will be a poorer place.”

Items on the agenda for discussion during the quarterly meetings include, employment and recruitment practices, health and safety, workplace culture, race and diversity, bullying and harassment, training and talent progression, new talent and mental health and wellbeing.

Founder of the TV Mindset Adeel Amini said: “The COVID crisis has brought freelancer issues into sharp focus, as well as the precarious nature of our industry as a whole. It is critical that we don’t emerge from this the same way we went in, and I believe that future change can only be achieved by having the entire industry working together. Acknowledging these issues and joining this coalition is an important first step; this agreement is the first of its kind and getting it on the table has been incredibly difficult work, but I am confident that it can result in a happier, healthier, and fairer future for everyone in our industry.”

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: “The pandemic has shown no mercy and its effect has laid bare the challenges that freelancers have been dealing with for too long. These conversations are an historic opportunity to reset and create a new deal for a part of the industry whose experience and wellbeing have been overlooked in the past. Bectu is committed to creating a framework for meaningful change and I would urge anyone working in TV to seriously consider joining to ensure your voice is heard.”

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