Read our submission to the DCMS Reality TV Inquiry
In June we submitted evidence to the DCMS Committee Inquiry into reality TV, set up to consider production companies’ duty of care towards participants after the suicide of a guest following filming for The Jeremy Kyle Show, and the suicides of two former Love Island contestants.
Our submission urged the Committee to consider broadening the inquiry to investigate the care of not just contributors but also the wellbeing of the thousands of men and women working behind the scenes on this type of programming.
Since June we completed the first part of The Looking Glass – our programme of research into the wellbeing and mental health of workers in the TV and film industry. In just 3 weeks almost 9,000 people completed our evidence-gathering online survey.
Alex Pumfrey, CEO of The Film and TV Charity said: “The staggering response to our industry survey has been a wake-up call for us all and shows an extraordinary strength of feeling about wellbeing and mental health in the TV, film and cinema sectors.
“We want to work hand-in-hand with industry to investigate this crucial new evidence and bring about real change. We are convening the Industry Taskforce on Mental Health to champion this work and are pleased to have the involvement of key industry decision-makers.
“We have also extended an invitation to DCMS to join the Taskforce.”
Ofcom recently proposed new rules to protect participants in reality formats. However, we believe that, as an industry, we need to turn our attention to the 180,000 workers who are the lifeblood of this industry in the UK. A growing proportion of the film and TV workforce is self-employed or freelance and, in many ways, it is the original ‘gig economy’.
In our submission we referenced a recent report produced by Dart Centre Europe, which drew on 22 interviews with TV producers and representatives of stakeholder organisations. The report found that the inherent issues of working with vulnerable contributors were compounded by the unique ‘working culture’ of TV; and the way in which the power structure of the industry, the way that film sets, TV sets and TV programming works, can lend itself to abuses of power.
These same issues appear in our own findings from The Looking Glass and, combined with limited job security, extreme work intensity and difficulty managing work/life balance, we believe that those working in the film and TV industry can be uniquely vulnerable.
Despite the obvious fact that a well workforce is crucial to the creative and commercial success of the UK’s thriving film and TV sector, we believe that mental health has been ignored as a serious issue for the industry in the UK.
Through our Film and TV Support Line we hear the stories of stress, hardship and difficulty for thousands of people who have nowhere else to turn. We hear about the impact of viewing traumatic footage in a newsroom editing suite; of looking after contributors; of a 40-hour shift without sleep. And the trend for intense and irregular work is only set to increase – with a human cost.
We are looking forward to sharing the outcomes of the research with the whole industry.
The Film and TV Support Line is free, confidential, and available 24/7 for issues big or small: 0800 054 00 00