EXCLUSIVE: Time’s Up UK, the charity born out of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and subsequent #MeToo movement, is exploring ways of improving accountability in the British television industry when allegations of sexual misconduct emerge years after a production has shut up shop.
Time’s Up UK chair Dame Heather Rabbatts told Deadline that her organization wants to address the “gray space” that exists when there is a lag between an inappropriate incident taking place and a complaint being lodged or made public.
It follows the allegations against Noel Clarke made by more than 20 women. Many of the accusations, which Clarke vehemently denies, date back to shoots that have long since wrapped or are in the hands of a different production team, such as BBC sci-fi drama Doctor Who.
“The overwhelming majority of productions have really clear procedures, as do broadcasters, around anything that happens at the time. The difficulty is what happens in what I call the grey space, and the Noel Clarke allegations are a manifestation of this,” Rabbatts said.
“Productions come today and they’re gone tomorrow. Everybody’s employed just on that production. So you no longer have an employment relationship. You don’t have a commissioning relationship. We need to think about what we can do in that space, because who has the responsibility?”
Rabbatts said she is in talks with the BFI and BAFTA around creating a set of recommendations and hopes to be able to say more in the coming weeks. She added that Time’s Up UK is focused on ensuring broadcasters, streamers, and producers build trust and confidence in their processes so crew members feel able to make a complaint “as soon as an incident has happened.” Time’s Up UK is also planning to embark on a new education drive to ensure people are aware of codes of conduct.
“The response has to be multi-layered. It has to be in the prevention and education space, it has to be around ensuring that survivors feel comfortable coming forward at the time; and then we have to figure out what to do when we have these revelations that go back a number of years,” Rabbatts explained.
She acknowledged that the TV industry has taken action against Clarke following The Guardian’s reporting on his alleged misconduct. Sky canceled Season 4 of Clarke’s drama Bulletproof, while he was also suspended from his production company, Unstoppable Film & Television, by backer All3Media. Clarke has denied wrongdoing.
More recently, Netflix responded swiftly after receiving an email containing sexual abuse allegations against Charlie Hanson, a comedy producer who was working on Ricky Gervais series After Life. The streamer removed him from the show almost immediately and contacted the police. United Agents also dropped Hanson, while his BAFTA membership was suspended. Like Clarke, he strongly denies the allegations.
Asked if the UK television industry is experiencing its #MeToo moment, Rabbatts said the Clarke claims “have acted as a trigger” for others to come forward. “I’m not surprised that started to happen because he was very much a British talent. That is one of the reasons it’s helped to act as an accelerator for others to come forward,” she added.
Alex Pumfrey, the CEO of The Film & TV Charity, agreed that “we should be prepared for more allegations of this nature to come to light.” She added: “We know that misconduct is rife in the film and TV industry and we know that victims of sexual assault are understandably reluctant to report their experiences.
“We all agree that easy, accessible, confidential and reliable reporting mechanisms could change workplace culture and help stop predators more quickly, but we equally know that victims of sexual assault have historically been silenced. If we are going to actively encourage reporting, we will need to listen, to learn and to respond with unequivocal support and compassion.”
If you would like to speak to someone about bullying or harassment you can call the Film & TV Charity’s 24-hour Support Line on 0800 054 00 00. It’s free and confidential to anyone working behind the scenes in the industry.