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October 2017
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Salary Survey 2014 Back to Reports & survey Listing

It’s possible to earn a good living in production. But, according to Televisual’s 19th salary survey, the rewards vary hugely between those at the Top and the bottom of the industry. Tim Dams reports

Televisual’s 19th annual salary survey paints a mixed picture of pay rates in broadcasting and production.

On the plus side, the majority of respondents (46%) say their salaries have risen over the past year – compared to 17.5% who report that their pay has fallen and the 36.4% who say it has stayed the same.

For a significant number in the industry, there is clearly good money to be made. Key jobs such as a producer, director and production manager in independent television all fall into the threshold for paying the higher rate of tax. The median annual earning of a producer, for example, is £44k, while a director can expect £50k and a series producer £65k. An executive producer, meanwhile, is likely to bring home a salary of £93.5k a year.


Behind the rosy topline figures, however, there are plenty of downsides. Many of the respondents to Televisual’s salary survey say that production companies are driving down rates and trying to make programmes as cheaply as possible, while demanding more work and overtime.

They also reveal an industry that generously rewards senior executives and top talent, while squeezing hard those lower down the ladder and expecting a great deal from them.

One TV director comments: “The active drive by production companies to keep costs down is negatively impacting on salaries and working conditions. It’s getting more difficult to deliver good work every time – it’s slipping into chance.”

Another director on £50k a year adds: “Companies keep trying to drive costs down. Days overrun and it’s hard to get overtime. People with less experience get employed – and then I have to come and pick up the pieces.”


Many respondents express bewilderment at the fact that senior executives at production companies and broadcasters appear to be paid very well, while professing there is no money for productions. A camera operator says: “The pressure from production companies is to try to lower rates, although staff members of those production companies appear to get annual increases themselves and their accounts suggest that profits are higher than last year.”

One line producer says the “salaries of execs are still going up. I’ve just worked for a company where they get bonuses but the crew are on minimums.” An archive producer adds there are “too many expensive execs top loaded onto programme budgets.”
Indeed, many say pay rates have stagnated for years – despite high inflation – which means they’ve had a pay cut. Not so for senior execs though. One indie md on £120k admits: “Pay feels very static other than for senior management. The rates for PDs and APs in factual have stayed the same for ten years.”



Some respondents haven’t necessarily got a problem with pay. It’s the workload and conditions of the crew and everyone else that really causes upset. Says one: “It isn’t that I think people are earning too little lower down in production. It is that there isn’t enough budget to crew enough people, so the hours become impossible and relentless. We can all work really late when necessary, but not every night just to cover the lack of people.”

Adds a line producer: “Working hours are creeping up again. And I mean an 80-90 hour week.” One producer director says that industry salaries continue to stagnate, as they have done for years. “But the biggest bugbears, for me, include unrealistic scheduling and silly working hours. With increasing frequency, I regularly hear that senior and experienced colleagues are quitting, or want to quit the industry because of working hours.”


Part of the problem is that there are more people who want to work in the media than jobs available. “There’s always someone who’ll undercut you,” says a researcher on £18k a year. A preditor adds: “People are willing to work for low or no pay. This devalues the profession and drives down incomes.” So poor is the pay in the lower ranks of the industry, that many say it is impossible pay the rent without external support – meaning that the industry is filled with new recruits who come from wealthier backgrounds.

One 25-year-old edit assistant on £17k in a post house comments: “Pay is too low, particularly in London. If you don’t quickly move on from an entry level position, like running, then without external financial help, you’re doomed. Even after promotion the climb is gradual. Pay in a London post house is a constant gripe and stress amongst myself and colleagues.”



Many do acknowledge that the more experience, skills and experience they have, the better they are paid in the industry. “The problem is though,” says one 3d animator, “it’s a long ladder to climb and there are a lot of people trying to climb it.”

Market forces, many point out, rule in the indie production sector. A producer/director says: “If you have a particular skill that is in demand, and no one else has, you can charge a lot. If you’re just another jobbing film school refugee without much on your CV, you can’t. It’s pure supply and demand.”

Yet concern emerges in the survey at the lack of skills within production, with indies hiring cheaper, less experienced people to fill key roles. The result, says one producer, is more stress and responsibility being heaped on the experienced editorial staff to make good the mistakes.




Indeed, there’s plenty of talk about stress and long hours in the survey. “Work life balance is still very poor across the board,” says one facilities manager. One series producer says pay does rise with age and seniority, but adds: “As a coal face programme maker with many years experience, it hasn’t risen significantly in years. Once you have the financial commitments of a family, it’s not at a level where it adequately compensates you for the lack of security or any additional benefits – like pension, sick pay,     security of tenure, health care, vehicle etc – that comes with seniority in other comparably stressful, skilled and intellectually rigorous occupations.”



As in previous years, Televisual’s salary survey also provides clear evidence of a pay gap between men and women. The median salary for men is £50k, while it is £37k for women. Says one female head of development: “The gender divide is alive and well. I am certain I earn less than my male counterparts, and so do other women I know. More needs to be done to address this, taking childcare options into account.”

Another production co-ordinator comments: “There are issues facing women with children in this industry. It is almost impossible to maintain a certain level, even after striving for years. And it’s incredibly demoralising that years of work can disintegrate into nothing on a return to work after starting a family – affecting salary and income in the process.”




How our pay survey works

Televisual emailed readers asking them to respond anonymously to our online salary survey. We asked what they were paid in 2013, their age, gender, and for an outline of their job, experience and whether they thought pay levels were rising, falling, or staying the same. We had 619 responses in all. The annual figures quoted in the article are based on median earnings. In previous years, we have used the average figure – but this has changed this year as we feel the median best represents the earnings of most people. Respondents had a median age of 37, and had worked in the industry for 14 years. 59% were male, and 41% female. The survey skews towards Televisual’s readership, which tends to reflect more senior levels of the business.





 
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