Research indicates that the period leading up to the end of a freelancer’s contract is a crucial moment when better support could positively impact the experience of the freelancer and their future career decision-making. 

A woman operating a camera from behind

The Supportive Offboarding project addresses one of the most urgent challenges currently facing the film and TV sector in the UK: namely, the absence of meaningful feedback, welfare and professional development support for its largely freelance workforce – a problem we know to be directly correlated to poor workforce retention.

This British Academy-funded project aims to design, develop and test an intervention to support TV freelancers’ careers.  The project, which focuses on the point at which an individual’s contract is coming to its end, is a collaboration between Bournemouth University and Fremantle, one of the largest and most successful creators, producers and distributors of TV content in the world.

Addressing the industry's retention issue

The issues that underpin the TV industry’s retention problem are rooted in historic changes in the model of employment that have created a wholesale dependency on an arms-length and unsupported freelance workforce.  Until now, periodic handwringing about skills gaps and shortages in TV have produced little positive action to fix the talent pipeline’s persistent leakage. Reasons that experienced workers leave this industry are multivarious and complex, but research in this area suggests that many freelance workers feel a profound ongoing sense of lacking support.

The project is a collaboration between Bournemouth University’s Centre for Excellence in Media Practice (CEMP) and the UK-based television conglomerate, Fremantle.  Fremantle is a major producer and distributor of TV content in the UK and beyond, responsible for shows including The X-Factor, The Apprentice, and Grand Designs.

The Supportive Offboarding project draws on the concept of ‘perceived organisational support’ as understood within organizational support theory and borrows from the developing field of the ‘ethics of care’, foregrounding a context-bound and relational standpoint on moral regulation. The project adopts the principles of action research in its design and testing of an intervention. 

The project is led by Dr Richard Wallis, facilitated by a British Academy Innovation Fellowship.