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British Entertainment Industry Issues New Guidelines on Harassment and Bullying

Emma Watson and James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli are among those backing industry initiative

British film and TV organizations have called time’s up on harassment in the entertainment business, calling for training programs on abuse and the setup of a 24-hour helpline as part of new industry-wide guidelines issued Wednesday after months of consultation.

Several of the events that prompted the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements in the U.S. have a British dimension, with London police investigating allegations against Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. More than 20 U.K. industry groups, led by the British Film Institute and BAFTA, have come together to produce a set of guiding principles and industry guidelines on how to tackle harassment and bullying.

Training schemes on dealing with harassment and the 24-hour helpline will be introduced in April. In addition, there are eight core principles that cover employer and employee responsibilities, the first principle being that “everyone is responsible for creating and maintaining an inclusive workplace.” Other tenets include commitments to acknowledge and eradicate bullying and harassment, to provide protection, and to take action where appropriate. They call for confidentiality to be respected where possible, and state there should be no reprisals against complainants. No concessions are to be made to rank or role.

The guidelines offer advice on how to draft policies on bullying and harassment, what the responsibilities are for both employers and employees, and what they can expect by way of protection. Other elements address recognizing questionable behavior and putting the new principles into effect.

The pledges to tackle bullying and harassment should be visible and promoted, and everyone in an organization should be asked to declare that he or she has read and understood the policy. The key principles should be included in every call sheet.

The BFI said the measures were meant to prevent further instances of abuse. “A lot of people have seen really extreme examples [of bullying and harassment] and been concerned about how we deal with them, but this is about stopping that before it starts,” Tim Hunter, BAFTA’s director of learning and new talent, told Variety.

The principles will become part of the BFI’s wider diversity standards, meaning that film, TV, and games seeking funding from the film institute will need to comply. The BFI wants the principles and guidelines incorporated into contracts and made clear to cast and crew as productions commence. Adherence to the diversity standards – and, by extension, the new harassment guidelines – will be compulsory in order for a production or person to be eligible for two of BAFTA’s film awards starting next year.

Organizations, guilds, unions, and advocacy groups such as BBC Films, Equity, Film4, Directors U.K., and Pact joined the BFI and BAFTA in drawing up the new principles and guidelines. Prominent industry figures, including actresses Emma Watson, Gemma Arterton and Gemma Chan, and producers Barbara Broccoli, Rebecca O’Brien and Alison Owen, have publicly backed the initiative. Arterton has already been helping to lead an effort to create a British counterpart to the Time’s Up movement in the U.S.

The stakeholders first met in November, as the earlier stages of the Weinstein scandal were still unfolding. The industry groups will meet again six months after the guidelines are introduced to review progress. The Brits have deliberately looked at the guidelines issued by the guilds and unions in America, mirroring their tone and language, to ensure a consistent message on both sides of the pond.

“This is resetting the tone and culture of a whole industry,” said Jennifer Smith, who was appointed the BFI’s first head of diversity last year. “BAFTA and the BFI are working across the industry to say these are the set of principles we want people to adhere to, and we are maximizing our leverage to make them part of the diversity standards. So if you want funding from the BFI, you need to comply.”

An Edinburgh International TV Festival report revealed widespread incidence of bullying and harassment, and the BFI will work with the festival, and with unions and trade bodies, on further monitoring.

Smith said the level of the problem that has now come to light could not have been predicted. “The depth and magnitude of what has happened has really rocked the industry. It was something we felt could not have been predicted in terms of how widespread these issues – and the issues of under-reporting in our world with a lot of freelancers – were,” she said.

Amanda Nevill, the CEO of the BFI, said: “This clear and simple guidance is for all, and in also becoming part of our diversity standards – which we strongly encourage all sections of the industry to adopt – it is an important step in becoming the industry I believe we all truly aspire to be: inclusive, fair, open and offering opportunity equally to everyone.”

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