Time’s Up UK Chair Heather Rabbatts has called for government legislation to tackle the scourge of bullying and harassment in the screen industries, along with focusing on inclusion at the highest levels.
Speaking at the Creative Coalition 2022 Festival, Rabbatts focussed on the damaging impact of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) on keeping victims silent, and said the government can step in.
“We need collective action and this is about legislation, whether to stop the use of NDAs or create a greater debate,” she added. “Having this infrastructure would be fundamentally important and could sit alongside industry codes of conduct and guidelines. An actor has to know they don’t need to go to a hotel for an audition, so they are clear about their rights.”
Rabbatts, a Dame and former BBC and Channel 4 exec, stuck her head above the parapet following the Noel Clarke allegations last summer, calling for the formation of an independent body to tackle the “gray space” that exists when there is a leg between an inappropriate incident taking place and a complaint being lodged or made public.
She has since assembled a summit on her plans with key industry stakeholders and is set to unveil them later this year.
Her call for legislation was echoed by Zelda Perkins, the friend of a former Harvey Weinstein victim who has launched a campaign entitled Can’t Buy My Silence, along with UK chart-topping singer Rebecca Ferguson, who has been public about being bullied and blackmailed in the music industry.
“The law (around NDAs) is being used to protect perpetrators and that makes no logical sense,” said Perkins, who spent 20 years being silent after her friend was abused before forming her campaign in the wake of the Weinstein revelations, around the time that Time’s Up UK was formed.
“We’ve been going since 2017 but nothing has changed in legislation and that is shocking.”
A bill to potentially prevent companies using NDAs is planned to go in front of the British parliament in March, sponsored by Women and Equalities Select Committee Chair Maria Miller.
Ferguson, who described the behavior of some in the music industry as “like a cartel” and said she has witnessed “modern day slavery and even trafficking,” urged the government to lead.
“They have to step in as the industry cannot self govern,” she added.
Rabbatts also focused on improving inclusivity at the top of the British screen industries.
“The people who hold the reins of power are fundamentally important,” she said. “We are seeing some change but nowhere near fast enough. Alarm bells are ringing but we need those alarm bells to ring louder and louder.”
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