The ongoing discussions around the working lives of U.K. TV freelancers have coalesced into The Freelance Charter, a historic document that was revealed at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Wednesday.
The charter is spearheaded by pan-industry working group Coalition for Change, founded and chaired by TV freelancer and founder of The TV Mindset, Adeel Amini.
It has been signed so far by Amazon Prime Video, BAFTA, BBC, BECTU, BFI, Channel 4, Channel 5/ViacomCBS, Deaf and Disabled People in TV, Directors U.K., Mama Youth, Sara Putt Associates, ScreenSkills, Sky Content, Share My Telly Job, STV Group plc, Telly Mums Network, The Film & TV Charity, The TV Collective, The TV Mindset, The Unit List, UKTV, Viva La PD and Women in Film and TV.
Currently missing from the signatories, at press time, are Netflix and ITV, along with producers’ trade body Pact and media regulator Ofcom. However, Variety understands that these, and several other organizations, have been very actively involved in conversations about signing the charter and will do so after due internal processes have been followed.
Broadly, the charter aims to create a culture of mutual respect and equality on every British television production and in the organizations that support and transmit them; eradicate bullying and harassment, ensuring that there is a consistent approach to whistleblowing across the industry, so that everyone is empowered to speak up without fear of recrimination or disadvantage; and improve recruitment practices so that roles are filled on a fair and equal basis, ending cronyism and the perpetuation of hiring candidates in the recruiters’ own image.
Objectives of the charter also include diversifying the make-up of the industry so that it is fully representative of British society and the variety of cultures, narratives, and opinions within it; encouraging regular training at all levels of the industry to combat unconscious bias; supporting better skills development and paths to promotion and making sure that freelancers know what opportunities are open to them; and improving the mental health of production teams.
Work on the charter was led by Richard Watsham, director of commissioning at UKTV, and Zai Bennett, MD of content at Sky U.K. and Ireland, and it has been created with the input of around 100 people 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.
In the first year there will be two reviews of the charter, in January and August 2022 with aims to widen the scope of the charter even further. Further reviews will take place annually.
“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,” Bennett said.
“We believe that improving wellbeing will not only safeguard our talent but will deliver even greater creative success,” Watsham said. “We’d like to appeal now for all organizations to sign up to the first version of the charter.”
Amini noted that when the Coalition for Change was launched, its aims were three-fold: to professionalize 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,” said Amini.