State of Play 2021: Management Practices in UK Unscripted Television

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 industry.

The front cover of the State of Play report

Last minute job bookings – and last minute cancellations; extended hours without breaks or compensation; discrimination; nepotism; sexual harrassment; and workplace bullying – all of these have come to characterise the working lives of the freelance staff who are the creative life-blood of British television. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has been the last straw for many as they joined the steady flow of skilled professionals leaving the industry.

Based on a survey of almost 1,200 television production professionals, this report 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. 

This report calls on the industry to put in place practical measures that reflect the good intentions articulated in so many company mission statements – to offer decent, equitable working conditions for those who make the content of which the UK is rightly proud.

The State of Play project was undertaken in conjunction with union Bectu and Viva La PD, a community of freelance TV producers and directors in the UK. 

Download the State of Play report (pdf, 1.8mb)

of television professionals claim to have experienced incidents of bullying or harassment in the workplace.
of people working in TV would like to see agreed minimum standards for hours, overtime, health and safety and welfare for freelancer staff

Marcus Ryder MBE

Leading campaigner for diversity in the media industries, on the State of Play report

It is time to take stock of what is happening in the industry we love and implement the policies that are needed to make a positive change. This valuable report will help us to do exactly that.

Disability by Design: Representation in TV

One in five people in the UK are deaf or disabled. Yet deaf and disabled people make up just 7% of television employees (Ofcom, 2020). This is despite broadcasters having inclusion policies as a condition of their licences, and Ofcom having had the regulatory duty to promote equality of opportunity in the broadcasting sector since 2003.

The front cover of the Disability by Design report

Two decades later, deaf and disabled people are still consistently under-represented across the UK screen industries with Ofcom acknowledging that ‘for there to be improvement, the recruitment, retention and progression of people with disabilities has to become a priority’.

There’s a further reason why this needs to become a priority in this sector.  Television is an influential medium.  How it operates and the way in which it represents people is noticed.  It is formative of public perception.  Whilst being uniquely placed to drive change more broadly, then, it has barely begun to put its own house in order.

Meanwhile, the day-to-day barriers faced by deaf and disabled people continue to go unnoticed and their voices unheard.  As this study reveals, there can be fear of even disclosing a condition or impairment in the highly competitive environment of TV. 

Disability by Design is an attempt to shed light on the lived experience of deaf and disabled people within the television industry.  It is hoped that the insights that this study provides may help to spur some action towards broadcasters and television employers taking their legal duties more seriously.  Yet ignorance is not an excuse.  The law is clear.  And discrimination does not have to be intentional to be unlawful. 

This project was undertaken in conjunction with Bectu, Equity, and the group Deaf and Disabled People who work in TV (DDPTV)

Download the Disability by Design: Representation in TV report of key findings 

of participants reported a lack of accessible facilities or equipment
of participants believed they had been rejected for a job due to their condition

News from the Faculty of Media and Communication