New research from film and TV union Bectu shows that more than two thirds of respondents to a February survey are still out of work

A Bectu survey from September 2023, amidst the SAG-AFTRA industrial action in the US, found that 80 per cent of the workforce had been directly impacted by the strikes, and three quarters were out of work.

Now, the union has published new research based on a February poll of more than 4,000 UK film and TV workers working across films, TV and commercials.

The report shows little has improved, with more than two thirds of respondents still out of work. It also dives into the wider picture behind the current ‘industry slowdown’ .

The survey found that many workers, especially women and those from ethnic minority backgrounds, as well as those working in unscripted TV, plan to leave film and TV work all together.

According to the Bectu survey, 68% of respondents are currently not working, only a tiny decrease from September 2023 (74%), and 68% report their employment being directly affected by the industry slowdown.

30% have had no work at all in the past three months, while 34% have had less than a month’s work since November and 58% say they have not seen any recovery in their employment since the end of industrial action in the US.

BAME respondents were less likely to have worked at all over the past three months than their white counterparts (29% of white respondents have not worked at all, while 38% of Asian/British Asian, 34% of those of mixed ethnic backgrounds and 32% of Black respondents say the same).

88% are concerned (46%) or extremely concerned (42%) about their financial security over the next six months. 75% reported that they are struggling with their mental health. A number of respondents report having had breakdowns or becoming suicidal.

The mental health impact of the crisis is hitting young workers hardest; 72% of respondents aged 18-24 and 69% of those aged 25-34 say their mental health has been negatively impacted due to financial issues and/or a lack of work. 90% of 18-24s and 82% of 25-34s report struggling with their mental wellbeing.

There has been an increase in the number of people who are planning to leave the industry within the next five years – from 24% in September 2023 to 37% in February 2024.

Women were among those least likely to see a future in the industry – 40% of female respondents said they see themselves in another industry in five years’ time compared to 34% of men. And while 37% of white respondents see themselves leaving the industry in the next five years, half of Black respondents (50%) say they will the industry in the next five years.

In the South East, around a third (31%) said that they were currently working, while this figure dropped to just 18% for those in the East Midlands, 21% for those in the North East.

Around half of workers in Scotland (47%), Northern Ireland (50%) and around four in ten of those in the North East (41%), North West (42%), South West (38%) and Wales (38%) say that they plan to leave the film and TV industry all together in the next five years.

The union is calling on the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to convene an urgent industry summit to discuss the crisis and commit government and industry to taking action. Bectu is also calling for greater clarity and transparency on commissioning from UK broadcasters, a greater focus on equality and diversity in the industry and for government to work with industry, unions and the freelance workforce to better understand the state of the industry and what must be done to address the crisis, including reviewing examples from other countries that provide a safety net for creative freelancers.

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: “There has been a lot of discussion about the state of the UK’s film and TV industry over the past year – about strikes in the US, a downturn in ad revenue, and reduced commissioning.

“In our survey we heard directly from those at the coalface of these significant challenges – the freelance workforce – and the picture is very bleak.

“Alongside rampant mental health challenges and debilitating financial difficulties, one of the most concerning takeaways from our research was the emphasis respondents placed on how the current crisis is amplifying existing inequalities across the industry.

“Far too many workers – particularly women and those from the global majority – told us they intend to leave the industry altogether within five years.

“The time for warm words and platitudes is over. You cannot have a thriving industry without a thriving and properly supported workforce, and we hope this report is the alarm bell the industry needs. Broadcasters and government must act now to halt the exodus of diverse and talented crew and tackle the structural challenges that leave workers feeling isolated, that damage their mental health and devastate their financial security.

“We consistently hear from the Secretary of State and other government officials about how much they value the creative industries. We now call on them to step up, put their money where their mouth is, and take decisive action to protect our much loved and revered film and TV industry, and the workers who make it all happen.”

See the full report here

Jon Creamer

Share this story

Share Televisual stories within your social media posts.
Be inclusive: is open access without the need to register.
Anyone and everyone can access this post with minimum fuss.