ScreenSkills today joins key figures from major broadcasters, streaming services and unions in the British TV industry in backing The Freelance Charter.
Unveiled today in a session at the Edinburgh TV Festival, the new document aims to improve the working life of freelancers across the television community and in doing so address the working practices and culture of people across the industry.
Born from the pan-industry working group Coalition for Change - founded and chaired by TV freelancer and founder of The TV Mindset, Adeel Amini - the Charter is the result of quarterly discussions between key stakeholders such as BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 / ViacomCBS, Sky, UKTV, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Pact and Bectu as well as ScreenSkills which was one of the first signatories.
Work on the charter was led by Richard Watsham, Director of Commissioning UKTV, and Zai Bennett, Managing Director, Content, Sky UK and Ireland, and it has been created with the input of around a hundred people throughout the broadcasters, freelancers, and other training bodies, professional associations, and charities across the industry.
It marks the first time in the sector’s history that industry bodies have come together to acknowledge its working practices and formally agree pledges to improve conditions.
The charter offers industry-wide guidance on issues such as recruitment and development, workplace culture, bullying, harassment, commissioner conduct and training opportunities, with detailed sections on each.
The Charter is listed as a living document, with Coalition members committing to annual reviews and taking on board feedback to constantly improve and assess its impact.
The Coalition will work in partnership with industry publication Broadcast to run, publicise and analyse an annual survey of the freelance community to establish where progress is being made, where there is further work to do or indeed to raise any new areas of concern.
Zai Bennett, Managing Director, Content at Sky, said: “The Freelance Charter is a result of a huge collective effort across the industry to tackle some of the issues faced by our freelance workforce, and it’s encouraging that all involved have embraced both the opportunity and responsibility that we have to make things better for everyone.
“As a living document, the Charter gives us all a useful framework to hold ourselves and others accountable, and it is an important first step in working together to improve conditions and create a culture of mutual respect and support.”
Richard Watsham, Director of Commissioning at UKTV, said: “There is extraordinary expertise in our industry but hearing stories daily of people leaving because of working conditions is deeply worrying. There is no doubt that change is urgent and it has been enormously heartening to see so many people come together, and to approach it with openness, compromise, and flexibility.
“We have only just started on the road to a better working environment and we need to keep up the momentum, engaging many more voices and opinions. We believe that improving wellbeing will not only safeguard our talent but will deliver even greater creative success. We’d like to appeal now for all organisations to sign up to the first version of the Charter.”
Coalition founder Adeel Amini said: “The Freelance Charter marks a huge step forward for our industry in acknowledging and tackling the issues faced by its workforce. When we launched the Coalition we stated its aims as three-fold: to professionalise the industry, invest in its talent, and create an ecosystem of respect. While there’s still room for more to be added to the Charter, I’m confident that this is the first positive leap in creating a healthier and happier industry for us all and I am exceptionally grateful to all Coalition members for coming together and showing the good this industry can do when it unites as one.”
Seetha Kumar, CEO, ScreenSkills said: “We look forward to working with our industry colleagues on creating a better and fairer working environment for the freelance workforce who are at the core of our own work for the sector. ScreenSkills already offers free training in areas such as unconscious bias and tackling bullying and harassment which can help everyone – from managing directors to runners – do their bit in effecting genuine change and we will continue to develop resources to help make the ambitions of the charter a reality.
Ian Katz, Channel 4 Chief Content Officer, said: “It’s no longer acceptable to pay lip service to supporting our freelance workforce. It’s been an extremely challenging year for all, but especially so for freelancers and we hope that by coming together as an industry and creating this Charter, we can create real improvements in working conditions and opportunities for our freelance colleagues.”
Ben Frow, Chief Content Officer, ViacomCBS Networks UK, said: “We hope this Charter demonstrates to freelancers a clear commitment from the industry to shape an environment where their wellbeing, conditions and development are prioritised. Nurturing creative talent has to underpin our collective working practices and together we can work towards meaningful change.”
Read the introduction to The Freelancer Charter here.
Read The Freelance Charter here.