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Bectu has hailed a shocking expose of the near-universal experience of bullying and harassment in unscripted TV as a ‘mandate for progressive change’.

In the interim report for State of Play, compiled with Bournemouth University and freelancer collective Vive la PD, 93% of individuals said they had been mistreated at work – and just 11% affected were happy with how the issue had been resolved.

Prior to Covid, 55% had considered leaving the TV industry, rising to 68% in the past year, while 84% said bad management had negatively affected their mental health and 58% said it had damaged their physical health.

In one of several selected comments from among the 1,200 individuals who responded to the survey, one individual lamented their decision to leave the industry after twenty years. “Had enough of bad practices. e.g. bullying execs, relentless criticism, toxic working environments, stress, long working hours, not feeling valued, bad effect on my own mental health. No career development possibilities, no security.”

Another pointed to micro-management and a culture of presenteeism and fear, describing “an expectation that you will pull out the stops at all times and work late to get the work done, regardless of home commitments. Otherwise you aren't seen as fully committed.” This worsened, they said, when they had their flexible working hours removed while they were on maternity leave.

With a third stating they would have pursued a career in TV if they had known about freelancer conditions, the survey calls for the introduction of minimum standards in areas such as overtime, hours, pay, health and safety and welfare benefits.

Some 73% pointed to ‘unfair’ recruitment practices in TV and 76% said they had first-hand experience of being overlooked due to nepotism.

One declared TV recruitment as “the Wild West”, adding: “No responses after promises of jobs, outrageously illegal questions at interviews - it’s as if employee rights don’t exist in the industry.”

Bectu head Philippa Childs called on broadcasters and indies must to “seriously address” workplace culture as the union kicks off talks with Pact about the survey’s findings.

“Dignity at work should be a basic expectation for everyone working in the industry and it is clear from this interim report that there is much to do,” she said.

James Taylor, the co-administrator for Viva la PD and chair of Bectu’s unscripted branch, added: “The positive thing in all this is that there is a mandate for progressive change. If the industry does not update its practices, I honestly believe we’ll lose the talent and experience that goes into making the nation’s favourite TV shows.”

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