Key figures from major broadcasters, streaming services and unions in the British TV industry have joined forces to pledge to improve working practices for freelancers in across the sector in the UK. Dubbed The Freelance Charter, the historic document has been signed by the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5/ViacomCBS, Sky, UKTV, Amazon Prime Video, Bectu, ScreenSkills and more.
The charter, which was unveiled today in a session at the Edinburgh TV Festival, comes after the impacts of Covid-19 put huge strain on the working lives of freelancers in the sector.
It marks the first time in the sector that industry bodies have united to address the working practices, culture of people across the industry and formally agree to improve conditions. It offers industry-wide guidance on issues such as recruitment and development, workplace culture, bullying, harassment, commissioner conduct and training opportunities with detailed sections on each.
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Born from the pan-industry working group Coalition for Change, which was founded and chaired by Adeel Amini, TV freelancer and founder of The TV Mindset, the charter is the result of quarterly discussions between key stakeholders from these major broadcasters, streaming services and unions.
UKTV Director of Commissioning Richard Watsham and Zai Bennet, MD of Content at Sky UK and Ireland, led the work on the charter, which was created with the input of around a hundred people throughout the broadcasters, freelancers and other training bodies, professional associations and charities across the industry.
The charter is listed as a living document, with Coalition for Change members committing to annual reviews and feedback to assess impact. In the first year there will be two reviews, in January and August 2022, with aims to widen the scope of the charter even further. Reviews will take place annually after that.
“The Freelance Charter is a result of a huge collective effort across the industry to tackle some of the issues faced by our freelance workforce, and it’s encouraging that all involved have embraced both the opportunity and responsibility that we have to make things better for everyone,” said Bennett in a statement.
“As a living document, the Charter gives us all a useful framework to hold ourselves and others accountable, and it is an important first step in working together to improve conditions and create a culture of mutual respect and support.”
Watsham added: “There is extraordinary expertise in our industry but hearing stories daily of people leaving because of working conditions is deeply worrying. There is no doubt that change is urgent and it has been enormously heartening to see so many people come together, and to approach it with openness, compromise, and flexibility.
“We have only just started on the road to a better working environment and we need to keep up the momentum, engaging many more voices and opinions. We believe that improving wellbeing will not only safeguard our talent but will deliver even greater creative success. We’d like to appeal now for all organizations to sign up to the first version of the Charter.”
Ian Katz, Channel 4 Chief Content Officer said: “It’s no longer acceptable to pay lip service to supporting our freelance workforce. It’s been an extremely challenging year for all, but especially so for freelancers and we hope that by coming together as an industry and creating this Charter, we can create real improvements in working conditions and opportunities for our freelance colleagues.”
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