The British television industry is a “toxic” environment with companies paying only “lip service” to allegations of sexual harassment and bullying, according to a new report. The survey, conducted by the Edinburgh International Television Festival and ITN-produced 5 News, found that more than half of respondents had experienced sexual harassment at work and more than four-fifths had not reported it.
British television presenter Anna Richardson, who hosts shows including Studio Lambert’s C4 format Naked Attraction, said that the industry had not learned its lesson in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey scandals. Richardson, who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2000 during promotion for his film The Sixth Day, said: “When all the allegations came out about Weinstein I sort of sat at home and metaphorically rolled my eyes and went ‘Here we go again. The industry hasn’t changed.”
The survey, which was completed by over 300 people in the UK TV business including senior broadcast executives and staff across the independent production sector, found that 54% had experienced sexual harassment at work, 84% of whom didn’t report it. Of these, 88% were female and 12% male with nearly a third employed as freelancers. Some 68% also admitted to being aware of sexual harassment and bullying happening to others at work.
More than a third (37%) of this took place in the office, with a similar percentage taking place on location, while 15% occurred at work parties and 9% in other out of hours events including work trips.
Deadline is currently investigating sexual harassment allegations across the business including a number of incidents within production companies owned by the major super-indie groups. While 38% of total claims took place between five and ten years ago, this is not just a historical problem; 40% took place up to five years ago and 22% happened within the past year.
One senior indie exec told Deadline that she had even experienced inappropriate behavior in the days after the Weinstein allegations emerged. Last month, the BBC revealed that it had received a “spike” in sexual harassment complaints in the aftermath of the scandal surrounding the disgraced movie mogul and that the corporation was investigating 25 cases. “After the Weinstein material was published we reminded staff again of the procedures,” the BBC’s Deputy Director General Anne Bulford told British MPs. “All the time we are encouraging people to step forward if that is the right thing to do. You perhaps won’t be surprised to know that we have a spike at present. We have more cases than we have seen over the last three years.”
Elsewhere, 71% of people had experienced bullying at work with 65% reporting that it took place in the office and 22% on set or location. Some 68% of these didn’t report it and 78% were concerned that if they did they would lose their job or it would have negative repercussions on their career.
Richardson noted that she didn’t report an incident where her female boss told her she had to “look f***able” in order to win work. “I’m ashamed to say I didn’t take it to the very, very top … I was really worried I would get labelled again as being difficult. So I just let it go,” she said.
Another female producer told Deadline that it was time to kick out the “culture of banter” within the business and that TV execs shouldn’t have to put up with inappropriate behaviour to feel “part of the team”. Others believed that little was done even if they did complain. “Companies are now paying lip service to allegations by having HR departments send out trite emails. Meanwhile I can tell you of several senior staff at indies who have been formally reprimanded for bullying but nothing ever happens,” said one respondent.
Lisa Campbell, director of the Edinburgh International Television Festival, who organized the survey and TV: Culture of Abuse? panel event at London’s Soho Theatre, added: “As an industry we pride ourselves on reflecting social issues in our programming, yet the people behind-the-scenes making this content, are suffering themselves and nothing is being done. We need to make a change, and talking about these issues is the first step to addressing and stopping them for good.”