Landmark UK TV Disability Report Urges Creation Of Facilities And Freelancer Funds; Calls For Mandatory Accessibility Co-ordinators

MacTaggart Lecture Jack Thorne
Jack Thorne during MacTaggart Lecture Rob Langley

A landmark disability report from Jack Thorne’s Underlying Health Condition lobbying group has urged the creation of two industry funds: one to upgrade studios and facilities and the other to help disabled freelancers.

Today’s Everyone Forgot About The Toilets report into disability in UK TV also called for mandatory Accessibility Co-ordinators on high-end productions, who would work similarly to Intimacy Co-ordinators, along with a line in every high-end TV (HETV) production budget for reasonable adjustments.

The report was issued at an event to mark International Day Of Persons With Disabilities and follows Help and His Dark Materials writer Thorne’s blistering August MacTaggart address at the Edinburgh TV Festival, in which he slammed the UK TV industry for “utterly and totally failing disabled people.”

The Disabled Freelancers Fund would be taken from a 0.1% levy on all HETV productions capped at £100,000 ($132,640) for shows above £5M ($6.6M) per hour. It is modelled on the UK’s HETV Skills Fund, which similarly takes a 0.5% levy from these shows.

The separate Studio and Facilities Fund would aim to improve access issues with UK studios by installing disabled toilets, quiet rooms, ramps and clear signage, after Thorne used his MacTaggart to cite alarming stories of disabled people having to crawl across honey wagon floors, for example.

There is just one accessible honey wagon in the whole of the UK, according to today’s report, while the majority of respondents to the survey said they either weren’t able to or were unsure whether they could offer accessible toilets.

Speaking to Deadline prior to the report’s publication, Thorne said the Studio and Facilities Fund will prove the most controversial recommendation as it will be difficult to establish who covers the cost and this will need “working out.”

“Producers will feel it’s not their responsibility to [financially] support rich studios,” he added, while the report said “stringent rules” will need to be agreed and implemented to ensure the facilities companies and studios receiving cash are most in need of support.

Building on the work of the U.S.’s 1 in 4 Coalition, the Accessibility Co-ordinator would be the main point of contact for all cast and crew on HETV shows to discuss accessibility. They would be involved from the early stages of a production and assess the studios and locations throughout the production period.

“In the ambition for this role, we envision the Accessibility Coordinator to be an empowered individual who can be more than a provocation,” said the report.

Finally, the line in every budget recommendation would be set at a base rate of around £5,000 ($6,600) to cover general reasonable adjustments in order to make productions more accessible.

The next step for the lobby group is a roundtable comprised of key execs from across the UK TV industry to “save our industry from being an exclusive and exclusionary space,” said the report.

“Our recommendations have been designed as a wrap-around package – addressing the problem on multiple fronts,” its conclusion added. “What runs through all this work is that change is overdue and vital.”

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