Women in Film and Television (WFTV) have received testimonies from over 100 respondents to their call for people to share their experiences of sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power in the broadcast industry.
The submissions, received across a one-month period and predominantly from women working in TV due to the higher proportion of women working in that media, will inform industry-wide guidelines that are being prepared by WFTV in association with Directors UK, the BFI and Pact. WFTV are also working together with Equity and Unite at a roundtable chaired by Labour MP Harriet Harman to establish a set of best-practice guidelines suitable for use across a range of industries.
In an interview with Broadcast (17 November) the WFTV’s chief executive Kate Kinninmont said “Some people have been going through utter hell and have left the industry because of bullying, sexual harassment and various power plays”.
The news follows a similar findings in The Bookseller whose survey Sexual Harassment in Publishing found just over 50% of 388 respondents had experienced abuse. The SoA has pledged our support to campaigns and on 15 November we published Abuse and the Posion of Silence by screenwriter and chair of the SoA’s Broadcasting Group committee Elizabeth-Anne Wheal.
Channel 5 hosted a live debate #MeToo on 22 November after Catey Sexton’s film Raped: My Story (Lambert Productions). The panel discussed allegations from Hollywood and Westminster in front of an invited audience of rape survivors, law makers and support workers.
Annual negotiations are delayed due to the BBC staff settlement remaining unresolved (currently at 1%). Areas of contention, for which we seek comments and evidence from members, are:
An extension of podcast rights from a year licence (although only 30 days is used) non-DRM to a perpetual licence withthe right to issue a take-down notice after a minimum of 5 years;
Slot durations to be redefined to actuality. The BBC defended their position saying in-house are at a commercial disadvantage to independent producers who pay their writers on actuality. This would be an immediate cut in rates and we are seeking evidence.
Radio Drama Treatments
We’ve had increasing numbers of complaints from members about the amount of unpaid work demanded of them during the development of treatments pre commission for radio dramas, including requests for sample pages of script as well as narrative breakdowns. Members should be aware that the RDA offers 10% of the Writer’s Single Transmission Fee for the Script for treatments over 2 pages and often only 150 words are expected in order to gain a commission. This does not help writers who are yet to be formally commissioned, so we urge members to stand firm and ask for a treatment fee at the outset.
Contracting on a fast-fee basis
We have received complaints that writers have been contracted on a fast-fee basis rather than Feature, Talks or RAC4 contracts. The Musician’s Union report similar problems with the BBC and we will be focussing on this in the coming months. Please contact us if you have experienced any problems.
Gross not PAYE
Members have complained that the BBC have paid them on a PAYE basis citing IR35 regulations and refusing to correct their error. HMRC and payroll experts at accountants H W Fisher have confirmed that writers fall outside of such arrangements and should always be paid gross with employers being responsible for correcting any payroll errors. Excess deductions should be refunded to the freelancer and instances reported and adjusted by the employer on their next payment to HMRC (within that tax year). We urge members to check their statements immediately and contact us for support.
As part of our CREATOR campaign we would like to focus on broadcasters and improve how members are contracted and commissioned.
We are currently concerned with issues around fair-dealing and are reviewing all our BBC minimum terms agreements, but are also simply interested in the profile of our members - whether you are currently writing TV or film and which production companies/broadcasters are commissioning SoA members. Please contact Theo Jones at the SoA with any comments you may have.