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Bectu has called for “urgent” change to address what it has called the “unprecented” lack of work for freelancers in unscripted TV so far this year,

The union’s unscripted branch carried a motion at its national conference this weekend stating that it has been“unusually quiet for freelancers in the unscripted genres, and many have not worked at all since January or earlier”.

In a follow-up statement, Bectu head Philippa Childs said many members working in unscripted TV are reporting that “this is the longest period without work that they have ever experienced”.

Highlighting the ‘feast or famine’ nature of TV and highlighting freelancers as the “backbone of the industry”, Childs said:

“Freelancers are critical to the success of the U.K.’s world-class film and TV production sector, however, at times it can be a lonely and uncertain profession. Many have already faced incredible challenges brought on by the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, and work long hours to the detriment of their mental health, family lives and work/life balance. Now, many are struggling to simply get by.”

The union is calling on the sector “not just to address the current crisis, but to commit to long-term change”.

Childs said: “Broadcasters must better communicate with freelancers and give them a seat at the table to find solutions to a system that places all of the risks of employment and unemployment on the individual workers.”

She concluded: “We must not underestimate the damaging impact of this system, both financially and in terms of mental health and wellbeing. Their skills, talents and livelihoods must be better respected. 

“Bectu stands in solidarity with all unscripted freelancers at this difficult time and we call on broadcasters, streamers, production companies and other stakeholders to fully engage with us to seek and drive urgent change.” 

In 2021, Bectu called for the industry to address the "broken and unsustainable" freelance model for unscripted TV and in March this year it launched a campaign it launched in March to bring unscripted into line with scripted by agreeing a set of terms and tighter regulation of working practices for UK freelancers, prompted by an open letter that attracted more than 1,000 signatures in a week.

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