Tagged / media industries

BU study reveals scale of bullying and harassment in TV industry

The role and social importance of TV and film during this pandemic has been much commented on. But how healthy is this industry? The good news is that this sector has been expanding at more than three times the rate of the wider economy, generating an annual trade surplus of almost £1 billion.  The less good news is that this expansion has been at the expense of its most valuable resource – its skilled workforce.  The preliminary report from our State of Play survey, undertaken shortly before Christmas and published today (11 January 2021) contains some shocking revelations.  The picture to emerge is one of an industry rife with unfair recruitment practices, a chronic lack of diversity, poor management, lack of professional development opportunities, entry-level exploitation (including unpaid work), mental health issues, and susceptibility to a culture of bullying… The list is a long and depressing one.  As one participant told us:

“I’m leaving the industry after twenty years. Had enough of bad practices. e.g. Bullying execs, relentless criticism, toxic working environments, stress, long working hours, not feeling valued, bad effect on my own mental health. No career development possibilities, no security.”

More than a third of our respondents told us they would have chosen differently had they known at the start of their career what they now know. It’s a far cry from the more familiar narrative about the joys of being creative, and work associated with self-actualisation. A summary of these findings has been published by Broadcast today.

None of this will come as much of a shock to scholars in the field of media industry studies (or indeed those of the Creative Industries more broadly).  The past decade has seen a steady flow of research suggesting that all is not well.  What has changed since the arrival of Covid-19, is that people are now seem to be much more willing to talk about it.  For a long time there has been a reluctance to discuss these systemic issues outside the academic community, and a tendency to dismiss them as ‘just the way the industry works’.  The publication of this report comes at a time when many in the industry are finally asking the question ‘why does it have to be the way the industry works?’  That makes it an exciting time for media industry scholars to be contributing to the debate.

The State of Play survey is a collaboration between BU’s Faculty of Media and Communication, the industry union Bectu, and the professional association Viva La PD. Bectu and Viva La PD are currently engaged in crucial discussions with major broadcasters, streamers and production companies, for which this research will provide critical insight.

The State of Play preliminary report is available here.

 

New study of management & recruitment in UK TV industry

This week sees the launch of The State of Play survey, an important new study into management and recruitment practices across the UK’s television industry. The initiative is a collaboration between colleagues in the Faculty of Media & Communication, the television union Bectu, and the freelance Producer-Directors’ association, Viva La PD.

It’s an exciting development’ says Christa van Raalte, Deputy Dean for Education & Professional Practice in the Faculty. ‘BU has long been known for the graduates who go on to work in the media, but we also have an important contribution to make to improving the way these industries actually operate’.

Prior to the pandemic, the UK’s film and television sector had been generating an annual trade surplus of almost £1 billion. Yet Covid-19 has exposed systemic and routinely overlooked problems. Chronic under-investment in professional development and over-dependence on an army of freelance workers has made it especially vulnerable. These workers – reliant on precarious, short-term contractual employment – have faced months without work, with over half ineligible for any Government support. Many may be permanently lost to the industry, exacerbating both pre-existing skills shortages and the industry’s well-documented lack of diversity. However the crisis has also been instrumental in raising awareness of structural weaknesses, previously unacknowledged by many industry leaders. This presents an unprecedented opportunity for much needed reform.

The study draws on previous work that BU has done in this area, and feeds into a larger piece of work for which external funding is currently being sought.

For more information about The State of Play survey, contact:
Richard Wallis (rwallis@bournemouth.ac.uk)
Department of Media Production, FMC.

Media industries haemorrhage experience

Richard Wallis writes:

A new study of Media Production graduates’ long-term career trajectories exposes industry’s high levels of wastage.

Like consumable goods that come labelled with a ‘best before’ date, it seems that media careers may also come with a limited shelf-life. Research published this week suggests that media industries have a problem with long-term retention. The study is one of a series we have undertaken to investigate the career trajectories of our students. The more that we understand about their post-BU working lives, the better we can prepare them for the world of work, and the more effectively we can be the critical friend providing much-needed thought-leadership for industry.

The study took as its focus the BA Media Production (BAMP) ‘Class of ‘95’: the cohort of Media Production students who arrived at Bournemouth at the point at which the institution received its university status. These BU first-generation graduates are now in mid-career, and their working lives have spanned a period of unprecedented upheaval within the industries that they aspired to work in. The study has exposed a feature of media work that has wider implications for the way media industries operate.

We have long known that media work is not for the faint-of-heart, and that the transition from University into work can be extremely challenging. Many previous studies (including our own) have attempted to examine some of the difficulties graduates face, particularly during the early stages of their careers. In this study we set out to understand the way in which the demands of media work are experienced through the prism of age, and life stage. We were able to interview a sample of 28 of these graduates: just over one third of the ’95 cohort.

What we learned surprised us. We had thought that the major challenges of media work were those experienced in early career. What we found caused us to question this presumption. Although we confirmed much of what previous studies have highlighted about early careers, sustaining the relentless pressures of such work over the longer-term transpired to be just as significant a problem. Many of our contributors talked fondly, and sometimes passionately, about work they had found to be enormously rewarding, but this ‘labour of love’ had become increasingly difficult to sustain over time. The rate of attrition by mid-career is striking. This presents an important challenge to the media industries. Whilst they become increasingly reliant on well-educated, highly motivated neophytes who are inexpensive, willing, and able to be flexible and self-exploiting, they are heamorrhaging experience, honed skills, and organizational memory. This is a development that, ultimately, cannot be for the good of the individual worker, the media organisations in which they work, or the Creative Industries as a sector.

 

See: Wallis, R., van Raalte, C. and Allegrini, S. (2019) The ‘shelf-life’ of a media career: a study of the long-term career narratives of media graduates. Creative Industries Journal https://doi.org/10.1080/17510694.2019.1664099