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Bectu: UK faces freelancer crisis in unscripted TV sector

The union says 2023 has been "unusually quiet for freelancers in the unscripted genres"

The UK’s film and TV union Bectu is warning the country is facing a crisis in the unscripted television sector, following increasing reports that large numbers of freelancers are facing major periods of downtime between productions.

At Bectu’s national conference in Eastbourne on 14th May its unscripted branch noted that 2023 has been unusually quiet for freelancers in the unscripted genres. Many have reported being without any form of work since January or earlier.

“This is uncharacteristic of the industry and is alarming,” said the union. “With many freelancers having already left or considering leaving the industry, Bectu is very concerned that there may not be a sufficient workforce to meet demand when production returns to more normal levels,” it added.

Bectu is urging industry stakeholders, including broadcasters, streamers and production companies, to work together to address the issue as a matter of urgency.

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: “Freelancers are critical to the success of the UK’s world-class film and TV production sector, however, at times it can be a lonely and uncertain profession. Many have already faced incredible challenges brought on by the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, and work long hours to the detriment of their mental health, family lives and work/life balance. Now, many are struggling to simply get by.

“The ‘feast or famine’ nature of the industry – whereby there may be an overabundance of work one minute, and none the next – is an incredibly challenging environment to work in and we urge the industry to come together not just to address the current crisis, but to commit to long-term change,” she added. “Broadcasters must better communicate with freelancers and give them a seat at the table to find solutions to a system that places all of the risks of employment and unemployment on the individual workers.

“Talented workers who are the backbone of the industry are suffering, and we must not underestimate the damaging impact of this system, both financially and in terms of mental health and wellbeing. Their skills, talents and livelihoods must be better respected,” said Childs.