Working with Weinstein producer Natasha Dack has urged broadcasters to budget for harassment protection in the same way as environmental concerns, while presenter and filmmaker Billie JD Porter said that more men in the UK television business need to be held to account over their actions in a wide-ranging #TimesUp panel at the Sheffield Doc/Fest.
The pair were joined on the panel – Times Up: The Industry Response to Bullying & Harassment – by Fiona Campbell, Controller of BBC News Mobile & Online, exec producer Jane Merlin and BAFTA’s Director of Learning & New Talent Tim Hunter.
Dack, who runs Tigerlily Productions, the company behind the recent Channel 4 Dispatches doc on Weinstein, said that broadcasters “really need to take a proper look at themselves” after revealing a story about a producer who had made a claim against an on-screen talent, described as a “national treasure”, but was rebuffed after the broadcaster took his side.
One suggestion, she said, “On call sheets nowadays you’ll see a lot of things about environmental concerns so why can’t we put things about behavior and what we expect from people, actually in writing in that way.”
Porter said that the issue would not change in the UK until there were a number of high-profile scalps. “There should be more men who are disgraced by this, I don’t think enough careers are ending over people’s past behaviour, I think more women’s careers are ending because of the amount of time that they’re having to dedicate to this and that happens in a very public sense,” she said.
The Rose Boy director added that the idea of implanting guidelines would not help and urged women to create their own informal networks to protect one another against abuse.
“To me, I’m sure the idea of implementing guidelines, as brilliant as they are, will summon sighs and eye rolls from male executives across the country because it seems like a chore. I think there have been so many instances of when these complaints do arise, they’re allowed to discreetly leave a company or they’re offered a huge payout and they still have a sparkling CV, whereas the women who have been brave enough to come forward are traumatised,” she added.
In January, Porter made a number of sexual assault accusations against bosses at Vice Media, accusing several Vice employees of giving her a “cocktail of drugs” at work, being asked to perform “sex acts” on her boss, and being encouraged to get drunk before filming, and reported these to HR.
However, she slammed the company’s HR processes and called its response to her correspondence “cold, unresponsive and inconsistent”. Today, she called that investigation a “farce”. “I recently spoke out about the farce of the investigation that went on at Vice after various stories broke there about inappropriate behaviour and crimes that were committed against women. I think that these HR procedures that are being put into place now are ultimately there to protect the company’s interests. I unfortunately regret being part of that investigation at Vice because I don’t think it’s lead to any real change at the company’s core,” she said, adding that one positive to emerge is a “real sense of sisterhood” from women in the British TV business.