I’ve taken some time to go through the freelancers report which explains my delay in getting back to you.
Whilst our campaign focuses on flexible working, our main goal is to improve overall working standard for TV freelancers for all the points raised in our previous email. I understand that the Diamond data used to publish the recent diversity report does concentrate mainly on employees working for the main broadcasters but my concerns are that some of those broadcasters, Viacom in particular, state that they employ 66% of their workforce as freelancers.
What I fail to understand is how the data used to compile these reports can be an accurate representation of what is currently happening in the TV industry when a huge proportion of it’s workforce isn’t taken in to account?
The freelancer report is a very interesting read. There are some areas which jump out at me initially which I’d like to raise.
The first point being, that the Diamond data is not collected in certain genres – such as News and Sport. We know that News and Sport is an area in TV which is heavy staffed by men – if data was collected from this genre then surely this would have huge effects on the gender figures, pushing them way out of the desired proportions? How can this data just not be collected when it’s clear that it would have a huge impact on the actual gender imbalance in TV?
Another area of the report that resonates with me is the quote from The Writers Guild and ALCS, the quote that “women in TV are being pigeon-holed by genre and unable to move”. I very recently had a chat with Talent Executives at ITV who confirmed that this is exactly the case for freelancers, especially in London. In the regions there are so many more opportunities to cross-genres in TV but in London, t’s a very real problem. How are women ever going to be given a fair chance at staying in an industry which has so few opportunities for them – this is a weak decision being made by employers that has a seriously detrimental effect on the longevity of women’s freelance careers in TV.
The most concerning point raised in the freelancer report is this: “The representation of women directors in the sub-genre (lifestyle, entertainment & reality) has decreased substantially moving figures further away from the percentage of the UK labour market.”
“In light entertainment 85% of episodes were written predominantly by men and 9% were written by predominantly female teams in 2016”
We both know that this figure is wholly unacceptable in modern times. These findings hit me particularly hard as this is the genre I fall in to personally. I filmed, produced and directed many hours of this sub-genre of television until I became a mother. When my caring commitments at home became my priority I was no longer able to do this job. It is almost impossible for women who go on to have children to return to this job role (sadly, this applies to most genres in television) and this was the catalyst for setting up SMTJ.
Right now, there are hundreds of female freelancers – exceptionally talented freelancers – with years of experience, unable to continue doing the job they are qualified to do because of the pressure of the role and the unnecessary demands and inflexibility of production companies and broadcasters.
We are never going to address the issues with underrepresentation of certain groups if broadcasters and indies can’t change their archaic ways of thinking in terms of how television is made.
I feel like the freelancer report data is too unreliable to use. There are many reason but to highlight one particular point, the 3 Directors of Share My Telly Job have been working as freelancers, in sum total for almost 50 years – I wouldn’t like to think how many hours of television we’ve produced between us but it will be in the hundreds! In all of those years, not a single one of us has ever been asked to fill out a Diamond survey report – we have never even seen one until a colleague who works as a sound recordist in documentaries forwarded one he had recently had. This is why the ’no data collected’ figures are so high – freelance producers and directors are not receiving these forms! We are being ignored.
Broadcasters state that they are improving data collection methods and including their freelancer workforce but quite simply – they are not.
I know that OFCOM are aware that more needs to be done to monitor the freelance workforce in TV but I really feel that this is an urgent and serious matter, especially looking at the official figures from the broadcasters about the weighting of their freelance staff. ITV alone has a work force which is 50% freelance. One of the UK’s largest broadcasters has no reliable data for half of their workforce, no duty of care to them and no rules or guidelines as to how they should fairly treat this huge population of transient employees. This is something that I have always had difficulty understanding.
With that, we would like to come and talk to you about all of those matters raised above. For 3.5 years we’ve been working very hard on improving the rights for freelancers, finding ways for people to continue in the careers as well as reaching out to the industry to try and help them understand how vital their freelancers are but we need more help and collaboration with the major bodies in television – Ofcom being the most important.
Job sharing, in our view, is the only way to provide part-time hours in industry which simply doesn’t have them. It’s the only practical way to hold on to it’s exceptional workforce and it’s a way for the industry to address the unacceptable gender imbalance of women in senior positions. It’s also a way of helping promote social mobility in the industry – by job sharing, you double your network and in turn make it more possible to work without pay gaps. It’s a way to introduce more people in to the industry with disabilities. Sharing the intense full-time roles in television is prohibitive for many people working with illnesses and with disabilities.
It’s the full on, full time nature of TV production which cause all of these entirely flawed results as people move through their careers. We know the nature of our work can not change due to tight commissioning deadlines and transmission schedules so we have to think of another way to assist freelancers to be able to maintain a career and still have the ability to progress in it.
Please let me know which dates would be suitable for you to at least start the huge task of trying to improve the way we manage freelancers in the industry and how we tackle the serious issue of data collection from this essential and growing part of our industries workforce.
Very best wishes