Creative industry set to expose its bullies

One of the most eclectic bodies lobbying on behalf of Britain’s creative industry workers is set to tackle harassment and bullying in media and entertainment workplaces.

The Federation of Entertainment Unions, on behalf of writers, broadcasters, actors, techies and other ‘off-camera’ staff, will spearhead the anti-bullying campaign with the NUJ, which represents journalists.

Launched in the wake of a new report into bullying at the BBC, the campaign will include surveys of workers across the media and entertainment sectors in a bid to raise awareness of bullying and ways to tackle the problem.

Findings from the surveys, due to be dispatched to the unions’ members – of whom freelancers make up significant chunks, will be brought together at a conference in London in November 2013.

Reflecting yesterday on the upcoming call for feedback, Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ’s general secretary, said the probe into bullying at the BBC highlighted that such harassment remained an issue for “all of the creative industries.”

Writing in the Guardian, she added: “These industries are seen as ‘glamorous’ and employers take full advantage of this. There are always others who can take your place if you complain.”

In line with her reading, the BBC probe found that, as its hiring managers know that their deepest yearning is for a full-time role, many freelancers in the broadcast industry keep quiet about ill-treatment, fearful that speaking out will ruin their chances.

The report into bullying at the BBC, Respect at Work, states: “Freelancers repeatedly stated that as a freelancer in the broadcasting industry you are only considered as good as your last piece of work and reputation is everything, so getting a reputation for speaking out or as a troublemaker is considered by many to be one form of ‘career suicide’.

“Freelancing and contract work may be an industry wide norm, but for many on short

-term contracts, a BBC full-time contract is the ultimate goal. Therefore people are willing to put up with a lot to realise that ambition.”

Other reasons the report found that freelancers ‘put up with a lot’ is their fear of losing their current contract; not getting further work from other industry sources (due to being labelled a troublemaker by the initial source) and being overlooked for promotion.

Also according to submissions by broadcasting union’s BECTU freelance members, freelancers might choose not to report bullying or harassment that they become victim to because of a fear that nothing would be done to stop or punish the perpetrator.

Not knowing their rights as a freelancer and not having an ‘appetite for a fight’ were the other factors that victims of bullying at the BBC cited as to why they kept the harassment to themselves.

But pointing out that bullying is not a problem exclusive to the corporation, the BBC reflected: "The feedback we have received from our employees, freelancers and trade unions suggests that the stresses created by the current economic climate and the highly pressurised environment of 24/7, multi-platform world of modern media, which can lead to inappropriate behaviour, is not simply an issue for the BBC.

"Indeed, it was made clear to us that it is certainly an issue for the wider media sector."

As a result, the BBC said it would welcome the opportunity to share its findings and approach with the media industry, whose practitioners will be alerted on FreelanceUK to the FEU/NUJ’s call for submissions about bullying as soon as they are sounded.


6th May 2013

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