New research highlights skills shortages in TV

A bottleneck in the availability of television workers at mid-level and senior grades is seen as an even bigger skills challenge for the industry than new entrants, according to new research conducted for ScreenSkills.

First Dates © Dave King, Channel 4 2017

A bottleneck in the availability of television workers at mid-level and senior grades is seen as an even bigger skills challenge for the industry than new entrants, according to new research conducted for ScreenSkills

But training more junior crew in the “right way” of doing things in a more standardised way was also seen to be important in ensuring the UK can meet the demands of the market and protect its international reputation.

The lack of standardisation of training raised a genuine question mark over definitions of quality and contributes to a lack of fairness in the way crew are judged and valued, the research found.

Gideon Barker, of Profundo Research & Insight who conducted the consultation, said: “It is noted that a paradox exists between the ‘world-class’ reputation of UK production skills, whilst being an industry with no formal, standardised way of judging skill and experience level.”

ScreenSkills commissioned interviews with TV executives alongside a survey to assess the skills needs in non-scripted TV and genres not currently supported by training through levies. Children’s and high-end TV already benefit from funds established in return for receiving tax credits.

It is noted that a paradox exists between the ‘world-class’ reputation of UK production skills, whilst being an industry with no formal, standardised way of judging skill and experience level

Gideon Barker, Profundo Research & Insight

The skills body is in talks with industry about creating a new TV skills fund with contributions shared between broadcasters and production companies to help tackle training needs. The model would be ScreenSkills' High-end TV Skills Fund, which supports training paid for by a contribution from high-end productions shot in the UK.

The consultation has confirmed concerns about skills gaps across all levels of the industry, from factors including the high volume of production and a long-term lack of investment in training. But the biggest bottleneck identified was mid-level grades, followed by senior grades.

The most acute shortages were in series producers and producer-directors, but stretched across roles and grades. The problems at mid-level appear to stem from a lack of opportunities for people to step up or across.

This was seen as strongly linked to a lack of risk-taking among broadcasters and commissioners who stipulate known names or top talent to be attached to productions before they will sign off, meaning the same names are “recycled”.

Interviewees suggested that the notion of the “best” people often meant sourcing talent from a very small pool, making it harder to hire fresh and often more diverse talent and contributing to the problem of a lack of diversity at a senior level.

Some suggested the lack of opportunity to move into a more senior role was a key reason for people dropping out of TV production. Everyone consulted considered lack of diversity an issue and felt a more concerted, centralised effort was required.

Barriers to diversity and inclusivity can stem from seemingly more trivial problems, the consultation found. For example, runners often need a driving licence to work which can prevent those who cannot afford to learn to drive from considering a role in TV.

The findings are being assessed by a ScreenSkills working party that has been meeting since the spring and includes representatives from Pact, Coba, BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and indies. Further discussions about the nature of a new investment fund will then take place with the sector.

To read the full research please click the following link to download the Profundo Non-scripted TV Skills Research (PDF).


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