The Unscripted TV Skills Fund went live on 1 June 2021. It will address skills gaps and shortages in unscripted television across the UK and build a bigger pool of off-screen crew and talent in the nations and regions.
A unique model matching investment from contributing broadcasters and production companies, the fund is designed to build a more inclusive workforce and future-proof the industry.
Decisions about how the fund is invested are made by practitioners who understand what is needed to develop talent behind the camera across all unscripted genres.
The fund also supports the industry-wide commitment to: professionalising working practices; diversifying the workforce to better represent the population in the UK; and finding collective solutions to training and career development that champion excellence and open doors to opportunities across the UK.
Investment in training for unscripted TV has been small compared with parts of the screen industries that benefit from tax relief, such as high-end TV, and this fund is intended to redress the imbalance.
ScreenSkills’ previous support for unscripted TV has come from investment through the ScreenSkills TV Skills Fund, which relied solely on broadcaster contributions, and the Indie Training Fund, which was supported by indie contributions. These two funds have been superseded by the new Unscripted Skills Fund, which brings both contributing parties into a single fund with amplified possibilities.
Every producer making an unscripted TV programme commissioned by one of the participating broadcasters/SVoDs will be expected to contribute. The broadcasters will match your contribution to the fund.
BBC, Channel 4, Sky, A+E Networks UK, Discovery UK, Channel 5, Netflix, ITV, Amazon and UKTV are on board as participating broadcasters/SVoDs.
We are continuing discussions with other broadcasters/SVoDs.
Producers contribute 0.125% of the agreed price of the commission. The broadcaster/SVoD will contribute the same amount to the fund (a total contribution of 0.25%)
Production company contributions are deducted from the licence fee/producers fee payment made from the broadcaster and will not form part of the programme budget.
The producer/licence agreement will stipulate that the broadcaster will reduce the payment to the production company by 0.125% to cover the USF contribution. So, for example, if the licence fee is £100,000 the payment made will be £99,875 (a deduction of £125)
If a programme has multiple funders, the 0.25% contribution is proportionate to the budget share of the participating broadcaster(s) rather than the total budget.
Any productions commissioned after 1 June 2021 by broadcasters and SVoDs who are signed up to the fund are expected to contribute.
*For Netflix the start date is 1 Sept 2021, for Channel 5 commissions it is 1 Jan 2022, for ITV it is 1 June 2022, for UKTV it is 1 Sept 2022, Amazon TBC.
Your contribution is not due until you deliver the programme/final episode to the commissioning broadcaster/SVoD. It will be deducted from your final producers' fee just like the Directors UK fee.
The broadcaster/SVoD will collect the fund contribution for the production company and pay this directly to ScreenSkills each quarter.
This is a different model from other ScreenSkills Skills Funds which are funded by productions alone with contributions normally collected in pre-production. Joint contributions from producers and commissioners reflects the collective decision by industry to address under-investment in training for unscripted TV.
As with other ScreenSkills’ skills funds, the Unscripted TV Skills Fund is overseen by a council comprised of representatives from production companies across the UK.
Several working groups, comprised of production companies, will focus on investment in five core areas of need - craft and tech, production, post-production, development, and industry and business skills.
There is also a slate of free online courses available for all contributors to the fund and their staff and freelance workforce.
The council will review the annual plan for investment as recommended by the working groups. Once approved by the council, it will then be ratified with the steering group.
Half of the membership of the working groups and council will come from companies with a substantive base out of London (as defined by Ofcom).
A steering group of contributing broadcasters, SVoDs and producers will oversee the fund’s strategic objectives and operational efficacy.
 The base will be taken to be substantive if it is the usual place of employment of: i) executives managing the regional business; and ii) senior personnel involved in the production in question; and iii) senior personnel involved in seeking programme commissions. Taken from Ofcom’s ‘Regional production and regional programme definitions’ Publication Date: 19 June 2019
The fund invests in the development of skills and talent across unscripted TV. The fund is led by industry groups to determine priorities and identify industry solutions, with a focus on programmes designed to deliver what industry needs, where it is needed.
These industry-owned solutions will aim to:
- address diversity and inclusion to drive a richer mix of talent across the sector at all levels
- meet identified skills gaps and shortages, especially in nations and regions
- keep pace with demand to future proof the TV industry
Recommendations are made by the working groups and presented to the council for approval. There is likely to be a focus on key shortage roles across areas including production management, development, self-shooting skills and post-production.
Priorities and investment will be updated on an annual basis.
We know that practitioners are best placed to prioritise the job role and skills shortages that present the most pressing need across Unscripted TV. The industry council and working groups made up entirely of production companies work with the ScreenSkills team to determine the most appropriate solutions.
For more information, see our latest research.
As with all ScreenSkills training, the fund looks for the most appropriate experts. All training will be awarded through a tender process that is open to all training providers across the UK.
The fund is committed to building the pool of training providers out of London to deliver locally-based training to those working in unscripted TV across the UK. A minimum of 50% of the funds awarded to training will go to training providers based in the nations and regions.
More investment in training should enable you to access a wider pool of skilled and inclusive talent and crew, including in the nations and regions.
The aim is to ease the current problems in unscripted television caused by skill shortages and to support production companies in meeting diversity targets and achieving the industry’s ambition of achieving greater inclusion - ensuring the unscripted workforce understands and reflects its audiences.
To see what training programmes we are funding this year click here .
A slate of free online short courses has been available to all from the launch of the fund. You can find the list of courses here .
The Unscripted TV Skills Fund works in the same way as the other ScreenSkills skills funds in that solutions to the skills needs are identified by industry professionals and by ScreenSkills research, but it is different because unscripted TV does not benefit from tax credits. This is reflected in a lower percentage contribution 0.125% (against 0.5% for other skills funds).
A lower percentage contribution does mean that it is not financially feasible to support training on a production-by-production basis.
Overall, at least 50% of beneficiaries will meet at least one industry-recognised diversity and inclusion aim. Each training programme commissioned through the fund will be expected to meet its own diversity and inclusion aims set by the working groups.
The broader ambition is to tackle acknowledged problems including barriers to career progression for talent and crew at the mid to senior level, helping effect structural change within the sector with a greater diversity of talent in commissioning, decision-making and hiring positions.
A significant percentage of the fund will support beneficiaries based in the nations and regions, rising to 100% in specific shortage areas.
The fund is used for training and development initiatives delivered locally across the UK as well as online.
All production company contributions to the fund will be split equally between supporting training for those based in London and those based in the nations and regions.
The same applies to contributions from Sky, A+E Networks UK, Discovery UK, Channel 5, Netflix, ITV, Amazon and UKTV.
All of the BBC and Channel 4 broadcaster contributions will be invested in support of beneficiaries who are based outside of London.
The hope is that, within about three years, the new fund will have raised £3 million to invest in training – approaching 10 times current levels. Income to the fund is dependent on programme commissioning which will vary annually and will also have been impacted by the pandemic, which is why we can’t be more precise at this time.
Eligible genres to be supported with training through the fund are:
- specialist factual
- general factual
- factual entertainment
- sport (excluding rights)
- current affairs
- arts and classical music
- religion and ethics
Any factual productions accessing tax credits and contributing to the HETV Skills Fund or Children’s TV Skills Fund will not be expected to also contribute to this fund. Any feature documentaries seeking the film tax credit and contributing to the Film Skills Fund are also excluded from the Unscripted TV Skills Fund.
Over the last three years we have consulted a small industry group of indies, broadcasters and Pact about the proposals which were first made public in January 2018.
This group was tasked with ensuring the principles of the fund and the processes, such as collection, worked for the industry. We were not able to share details of the new fund more broadly with the production community until we were sure it was going to happen and that has only become clear in the last few weeks.
Now that the fund has launched, ScreenSkills is focused on reaching unscripted productions in order to give everyone the opportunity to find out more about what the fund will mean for them, and to ask us any questions you have.
Working groups are comprised of 8 production company members including:
- 50% companies with a substantive base in the nations and regions
- 30% companies with turnover of £3 million or less (can be the same as the above)
- representation of a range of genres
Each group addresses a specific core area of need - craft and tech, production, post-production, development, and industry and business skills.
Council members include all working group chairs as well as other nations and regions representatives. You can see a list of all members here .
Steering group is made up of each of the contributing broadcasters, the chair of the council and a small number of council members.
ScreenSkills and the chairs of the council and steering group will collaborate to ensure all parts of the governance structure meet the requirements of the fund.
You can contact anyone on the Unscripted TV Skills Council at any time if you want to speak to your peers and colleagues about the fund. There will be someone representing every nation and region in the UK.
ScreenSkills will keep you updated through regular e-newsletters (sign up here), as well as through the dedicated Unscripted TV Skills Fund pages on the website.
Alternatively, you can contact ScreenSkills directly at any time and speak to Sarah Joyce if you have any questions about the fund, its governance, processes, training priorities etc.
Please contact Claire Stratton if you want to discuss the online short course training slate, if you are an industry professional interested in becoming a trainer, or if you are a training provider with questions.
For more information, see the executive summary of the Unscripted Skills Fund's annual report for 21/22.