EXCLUSIVE: Amid the UK TV industry’s push to improve workplace conditions, the BBC is set to meet with leading industry bodies Pact, BFI and Equity to work out how its new anti-bullying guidelines can be implemented, as production managers report being “overwhelmed.”
The drive for positive change in the business is throwing up questions and concerns over implementation and UK trade body Pact is currently in talks with the BBC over whether these new guidelines, which were forged in the wake of the Noel Clarke revelations, will create “an additional burden” for producers.
The BBC is due to meet with other UK bodies such as actors’ union Equity, The Film & TV Charity and the BFI over the coming weeks to “work out what the best next steps are as an industry to encourage best practice in a way that is consistent, efficient and drives cultural change,” according to a BBC spokeswoman.
While the guidelines were broadly welcomed by indie bosses, several production managers, who are responsible for planning and co-ordinating all steps of the production process, contacted Deadline in the wake of last week’s article to say they are nearing breaking point.
Along with all previous responsibilities, production managers now must complete these anti-bullying guidelines, oversee Covid-19 protocols, environmental certification, diversity measures and paperwork such as BFI Tax Credit applications, according to one head of production at a large global-facing indie.
“We are overwhelmed with admin,” this source told Deadline. “The BBC is passing the buck to production companies and bombarding them in an already stretched and exhausting, lacking-in-resources environment.”
Pact CEO John McVay raised concerns to Deadline that the recent diktat from BBC content boss Charlotte Moore will require indies to allocate more funding and resources.
Pact is “reviewing the guidelines and will feed back to the BBC and members on a sensible way to implement them,” McVay said, with representatives due to meet with the BBC shortly.
“Everyone wants to make sure we have a safe and healthy working environment – we have our own bullying and harassment guidelines we produced some time ago – but you have to be clear about where the responsibility lies,” added McVay, whose member base is comprised of hundreds of UK producers.
Deadline revealed exclusively last week that Moore had emailed dozens of UK indies with the new guidance, which includes all cast and crew completing anti-bullying and harassment training, at least one safeguarding contact being appointed per production and all indies having a suitable “respect at work” policy.
The BBC’s memo was issued around the time a campaign was launched by a group of UK production managers for improved pay and working conditions, and the BBC has met with the organizers of this campaign.
One senior figure at a large UK indie accused the BBC and other UK networks of “preaching from on high but not helping.”
“As much as broadcasters talk about wanting to eliminate issues with bullying, a lot of the problem comes from these same broadcasters putting the indies under unrealistic amounts of pressure,” they went on to say.
The BBC spokeswoman said the corporation is working with producers to “understand any issues that may arise.”
“We fully understand how busy production teams are at the moment and in particular the important role that production management plays in delivering programs,” she added, before stating the new guidelines are being “built into the BBC’s commissioning processes” for ease.
Other UK indie sector sources praised the BBC for taking action – one senior UK producer hailed a “good move” and identified “indie implementation” as the only issue – while some said they already have policies in place.
Another indie boss urged a “more fluid conversation” between broadcasters and indies to stamp out bullying and said the conversation thus far has been too reactive.
Moore acknowledged in her email to indies that the guidelines, which are an update on a previous policy, were being redrawn “in light of recent revelations.” She was most likely referring to the recent shock allegations against Clarke, which the Kidulthood star denies.
A third UK indie head urged broadcasters to “make clear they have the authority” to refuse to commission producers if they do not stamp out bullying and harassment.