A report by the Edinburgh International TV Festival and 5 News has revealed widespread sexual harassment and bullying in the TV industry. 


A total of 315 people completed the anonymous, industry-wide ‘TV: A Culture of Abuse survey’, including employees and freelancers from broadcasters and independent production companies, in roles ranging from commissioners and executive producers, to development producers, production managers and series producers.


The results showed that 71% have experienced bullying at work with 65% reporting that it took place in the office and 22% on set or location. Of those reporting as victims of bullying, 78% are female and 22% male and 38% are from indie sector, 31% are freelancers, 17% broadcasters, 14% other. 68% of those surveyed didn’t report it, 78% of which were concerned that if they did, they would lose their job, or it would have negative repercussions on their career.


The survey also included anonymous comments which reflect the realities of the work place such as:


“The stigma of reporting bad behaviour needs to be removed. If anyone (especially junior team members) complain about bullying behaviour / harassment, it is them who are isolated and struggle to find work again, rather than the perpetrator.”


“Freelancing keeps people silent because they fear that today’s bully is tomorrow’s boss.”


Meanwhile 54% of people have experienced sexual harassment at work, 84% of whom didn’t report it. Of those, 88% are female and 12% male and 43% are from indie sector, 30% are freelancers, 10% broadcasters, 22% other.  68% also admitted to being aware of bullying and sexual harassment happening to others at work. 62% of those who had experienced sexual harassment reported it had taken place in the last five years. 


In a special debate, hosted by the Edinburgh International TV Festival and ITN, and 

supported by 5 News, journalist and broadcaster Sian Williams will be joined by TV presenter Anna Richardson, 5 News editor Rachel Corp, chief executive at UKTV Darren Childs, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology Dr Afroditi Pina and former High Court Judge, Dame Janet Smith, as they examine the practical steps both organisations and individuals can take to deal with inappropriate behaviour, particularly bullying and intimidation – in the workplace, out of hours and on location. 


HR advice will be provided by Karl Burnett, VP Human Resources at A&E Networks and former director of HR at BBC News and Radio.


Sian Williams said: “The abuse of power is one of the most important issues facing society today. We’ve already seen how prevalent and systemic this type of behaviour has been in other creative sectors, so it is vitally important that we now turn the spotlight onto the television industry here in the UK.”


More than 90% said that they were confident in their knowledge of what constitutes bullying and sexual harassment, but less than half – 47% understood their rights in respect of taking action at work if confronted with such behaviour.


However, 65% were unsure or didn’t have faith in their employer to deal with any issues, and 70% were unsure or not aware at all with the grievance process. Some comments reflected this:


“Having worked in many industries prior to my move into TV, never have I been in an industry that is so unregulated on so many levels.”


“Companies are now paying lip service to allegations by having HR departments send out trite emails. Meanwhile I can tell you of several senior staff at indies who have been formally reprimanded for bullying but nothing ever happens.”


90% did not think or were unsure whether the BBC’s Respect at Work Review, and subsequent debates around bullying, had had any impact on staff or talent behaviour in recent years. One survey respondent said:


“There is no desire to change and I don’t believe recent revelations will affect anything. I saw this all before in 2012 and the big circus the BBC put on about investigating, and fundamentally, apart from putting a few heads on a stick for show, nothing changed and nothing will ever change. There is no desire for a cultural shift to do the right thing if people can ignore and get away with it.”

Jon Creamer

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